While reading through many articles on strategy and competitive advantage, I came across the above statement that I thought was a gem of an expression about innovation, disruptive technologies and ultimately competitive advantage, a statement that expresses in a simplistic and definitive term all of the above.

This simplistic statement sums up exactly how innovation becomes a disruptive technology and impacts competitive advantage. Sustaining competitive advantage is not possible in an ever faster changing world. One cannot stick with the products and services they have, so unlike the stone-age who’s transition to the new technology was a few thousand years, its not a short supply of stones that moved the human race to the next stage of evolution, it was the innovate adaptability of new materials, being metals which are a broader more adaptable and usable material, as opposed to stones. What this Stone Age statement also clearly points out, is that you may have a great product or service, but you need to be aware of the competitive market place, what your competition is doing, as a change will be coming and it will reduce your advantage unless you continue to innovate.

The innovation of the Bronze Age ended the Stone Age. This change had a value; it improved the lives of people in that they could produce more artifacts primarily through smelting that enhanced their lives. Not just from a weapons point of view, but also defensive, as well as tools that helped in storage, cooking, building and a host of other value added ideas. This further migrated into the Iron Age.

Roll forward to the 21st century, and such changes take a much less infinite amount of time to wreak cataclysmic change on the market place.

The Stone Age migration to the Bronze Age innovation and disruption would not follow the VRIO of today’s technological world (see article 4 in this series). The transition from stone to metals was not rare, it was not confined to a single person or group of people and it was easily imitated, but those that saw the opportunity and used their resources and capabilities as early adopters to the new technology, gained a [temporary] competitive advantage.

History is littered with these innovations and causes of disruptive technologies. The industrial revolution for example was a major step in innovation and a major disruption, which propelled the masses and began the sustained growth of the developed world.

History is important for us all as it repeats itself time and again. Likewise innovation will always generate disruptive technologies. Using Moore’s Law as a metaphor, time is now a major factor in adoption and change. The Stone Age had a few thousand years to adopt new technologies; today as stated earlier, the time to innovate, adopt and change to new technologies can be measured in months and even weeks, or less, not years. This measurable time will only further reduce as man progresses, those at the forefront of these new technologies and those that embrace them, will have for a continued shorter period of time, competitive advantage.

Image courtesy of Multiple Sclerosis Research. Available at: http://multiple-sclerosis-research.blogspot.com/2014/08/back-to-stone-age.html


‘Strategic Global Group (SGG) establishes your Competitive Advantage’.

Phil Wilton has worked in MNC’s as well as developing start-ups and business expansion for SME’s. He received his MBA in International Business, Strategy, Marketing and Emerging Markets from the University of Liverpool. He also completed Business Strategy – Achieving Competitive Advantage at Cornel University.

Feel free to contact Phil (SGG) for a no obligation discussion on how he can help your firm.