Definition of Change in Kind

What Is a Change in Kind?

Everything flows and changes, and most of it is unnoticeable. But sometimes change can be radically disruptive. When these disruptions are not simply more or bigger but involve a fundamental difference, they are termed “change in kind.” A change in kind is always a qualitative change. We use the everyday expression “you cannot compare apples to oranges” to get at the qualitative nature of this change. 

Change in kind involves a discontinuity with other things. And hence, we refer to the innovation practices associated with change in kind as “disruptive innovation.”

When a change in kind is novel, it is something that is radically and disruptively new. It is giving rise to a novel world and, not a simple discreet novel thing. This form of novelty cannot be understood based on what is known. This means that techniques such as ideation and imagination are not helpful as they fundamentally rely on the known. Many of the most popular current methods for innovation (such as Design Thinking) in that they begin or focus on ideation are not helpful for creative practices that are seeking to make something qualitatively new emerge. The techniques that lead to a novel change in kind are directly experimental and involve blocking, exaptations and feedforward logics.

Example of Change in Kind

An example of a change in kind is the transition from horses to cars as a form of transportation. This transition was a shift in worlds, from animal powered transportation to combustion engines (an entirely new and different world.)

Disruptive innovation requires very different practices, environments, and sensibilities for developmental innovation. This is often not recognized, and the techniques of developmental innovation are used universally, as if they will lead to disruptive innovation outcomes. But this is never the case. Critical to being a good innovator is recognizing that there are two forms of innovation and that both require their own unique set of practices.

Disruptive innovation or a change in kind

See also: Change, Difference, Change in Degree, World Making, Innovation Design Approach, Exaptation, Feedforward, Blocking

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

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