Human interaction today is saturated with continuous interruption, demonstrated most obviously by our addiction to the real-time access of smartphones and social media.  As humans, we experience interruption in a way that aligns closely with the commonly used definition – to stop the continuous progress of something. When we’re interrupted during human interaction, it’s often abrupt – even unwelcome. However, as innovators, we recognize the need for interruption based on the factors that inspire it: frustration, motivation, strategy and timing.

“But that’s the way we’ve always done it”

Is there any phrase that better signals the need for interruption? We defined interrupt as doing things in a new way, so as to make the old things obsolete – a definition that aligns closely with disrupt, a word that arguably governs the language of technology today. A closer look at interrupt vs. disrupt reveals that to interrupt is to change the rate of progress of an endeavor in a more gradual, or even temporary way. Disrupt, on the other hand, has more permanence in the canceling out or termination of what came before.

It’s important to understand the definitions of the 3 I’s of Innovation but it’s even more important to set out to define them in the unique framework of your product plan. Is there room to interrupt without disrupting?  Whatever your opinion, disruption most likely starts with interruption. Amazon interrupted retail, OpenTable and Expedia interrupted the hospitality booking process, Uber interrupted accessible transportation. The dominance and magnitude of these companies is rare but each started by detecting the signal for a need to interrupt.

What inspires interruption in the marketplace?

Frustration: The emotional exasperation that comes from a frustrating experience has inspired interruption in everything from mops to drones that save lives.  When people “just can’t even” do something one more time, it’s time to create something better.

Motivation: Ideas are everywhere and in some cases, even easy to find. Effective execution is what happens when the motivation drives ideas in the right direction.

Strategy: Evaluate industries that have established a long history of repetition without iteration. Can you locate the next opportunity, brainstorm a better way, and bring a solution to market?

Timing: Is the market available, educated and ready for your solution?  Is the frustration level appropriate to introduce a more meaningful option?

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