Disruptive innovation, a theory attributed to American economist Clayton M. Christensen, refers to when a product or service enters an existing market with new features, functionalities, or outcomes. This transforms the segment category making all competitors irrelevant until they transform to compete. The cellphone is an example. The market was once dominated by phones made by Nokia and Motorola until those products became obsolete with the introduction of the Apple iPhone.

Innovation is a new idea or method, or the introduction of something new, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary. When given time and adequate resources, many service designers strive for innovative solutions to design challenges, seeking new and novel ways of appealing to user needs. Sometimes the drive is based on increasing a service provider’s revenue. Yet innovation can also be the result of a vision of launching new solutions into a marketplace.


Innovation can arise from service prototyping techniques. One is called interation and another is parallel prototyping. Iterative involves periodic testing of a design with teams making small improvements over time. The result many times is a new type of service, or service features, that meet user needs in unique ways.  Parallel is when evaluators review competing designs that are progressing at the same time. The auto industry uses parallel designs when developing new cars, choosing one, or blending multiple features toward a final product. Parallel and iteration techniques can also be sequenced at different design stages, each one separately soliciting ideas and input from selected groups.

Driving innovation using service design is not limited to prototyping. Practically every service design technique will reveal new insights, new user needs, and likewise unique ways of meeting user needs,

ISDI covers prototyping in The Master, Volume III in the Service Designer series.