The Laser Scanning Innovator’s Dilemma

Some of you may recognize the title of this post as being borrowed from the very important work by Prof. Clayton Christenson, entitled, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. This book is a must read for all of the laser scanning pioneers who are in the process of figuring out to leverage this disruptive technology.

Prof. Christenson derived the key elements of his strategy for introducing new technologies into existing organizations by studying the disc drive industry. Among his key findings are that your existing customers will not help you to drive innovation, or understand new markets. In fact, your existing customers, and their steady business, will prevent you from seeking new opportunities in the way a smaller, more aggressive firm would approach them.

Bottom line – don’t listen to your existing customers, when it comes to the need for new technology.

Another key Christenson finding is that markets for a new disruptive technology are unknown and more importantly, unknowable. To me this is reassuring to a certain extent, in that I don’t have to feel like, “If I only had the time and/or money to do the market research that I could accurately predict the future.” This puts you on a level playing field, regardless of the size of your firm.

In the end it has to be about solving customer problems in a cost effective manner. It should not be about scanning, especially the actual field work. This is already in the process of becoming a commodity.

I was speaking yesterday with one of the founders of a traditional surveying firm, who is trying to figure out what to do about laser scanning. I encouraged him to think less about the hardware – after all when the total station was invented surveyors did not go into the “total station business”. We invested in total stations because it made us an order of magnitude more productive.

The real value, and hence opportunity for laser scanning technology is in the 3D modeling of the as-found condition. We laser scanning pioneers have to find customers who will pay us to provide them with accurate 3D models as input to some kind of design process, and/or information derived from the scan data that can be used to make more intelligent, core business decisions. We should not be looking for customers who want to pay us for using laser scanning.

Keep in mind that all successful businesses have one thing in common – customers.

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2 Responses to The Laser Scanning Innovator’s Dilemma

  1. I think you are right, Gene.
    Henry Ford quote “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” …

  2. Gene V. Roe says:

    Great quote – thanks.

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