‘Disruptive Innovation’ Inspires Blue Workforce’s Ragnar Robot

In the News
September 21, 2016

The name of Blue Workforce A/S is all about machines, according to serial entrepreneur Preben Hjørnet. Not warm hands to do the job, but cold hands. Robots should do the difficult and dull jobs, leaving humans to do the exciting and interesting work, he said. Hjørnet cited Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen’s theory of “disruptive innovation” as a major inspiration for Blue Workforce’s products.

In 1995, Christensen defined a disruptive innovation as “a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves upmarket, eventually displacing established competitors.”

By the early 2000s, a “significant societal impact” was defined as another characteristic of the phenomenon. How does Aalborg, Denmark-based Blue Workforce exemplify disruptive innovation?

“One of our products is the unique product-handling robot Ragnar, which was methodically developed for the industry by using disruptive innovation,” Hjørnet said. “With regard to price, Ragnar is four to 10 times cheaper than other solutions.”

“Ragnar is lighter, more flexible, and has a one-minute changeover time,” Hjørnet told Robotics Business Review. “It [includes] open control software, optimized by factors in cost, footprint, and workspace.”

“It cannot be compared to any other product at the market,” he explained. “The customers choose our solution despite the fact that we nearly have no history. They see that it is the best solution to meet their demands.”

Inspired to innovate

In 1997, Christensen’s book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, examined “why new technologies cause great firms to fail.”

“A disruptive innovation is not a breakthrough innovation that makes good products a lot better,” Christensen wrote. “It has a very specific definition. It transforms a product that historically was so expensive and complicated that only a few people with a lot of money and  a lot of skills have access to it. Disruptive innovation makes it so much more affordable and accessible that a much larger population has access to it.”

“The only way to look into the future — there is no data — so you have to have a good theory,” he said. “By teaching managers to look through the lens of a theory in the future, you can actually see the future very clearly. That is what the theory of disruption has done.”

In 2013, The Washington Post ranked Christensen as a “top 50 thinker,” and it also described him as...

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