Catalytic Innovation for cataclysmic social transformation

Two new words have entered the ever-growing repository of adjectives that are prefixed to INNOVATION – “reverse” and “catalytic”.

I have a problem with the word “Reverse” for its connotation; first we were called an underdeveloped nation, later to be euphemistically toned down to ‘developing’. (Reverse has to have originated in the West’s lexicon to mean backward – pun intended).  

Google Search for Reverse Innovation

Catalytic Innovation however, for me, has some very insightful and valuable realities attached to it.

Clayton M. Christensen in his article, Disruption for Social Change elucidates :-

The existing players in any sector have resources, processes, partners, and business models designed to support the status quo. This makes it difficult and unappealing for them to challenge the prevailing way of doing things. Organizations are set up to support their existing business models. Because implementing a simpler, less expensive, more accessible product or service could sabotage their current offerings, it’s almost impossible for them to disrupt themselves. Therefore, the catalytic innovations that will bring new benefits to the most people are likely to come from outside the ranks of the established players.

And here’s the opportunity for the ‘outliers’. Because catalytic innovation makes ‘social change’ its primary objective. Technology plays an even more important role in the context of Social Innovation especially in those parts of the world where basic human needs are wanting. However, as highlighted by the HBR post quoted above, disruption of the status quo will happen from outside the establishment, including existing technology players.

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