On Dominant Design

What we can learn from the Snapchat vs. Instagram Stories battle.

August 14, 2020
3 minutes

Technology cycles are a period of time where technology is challenged on its existence by newer, disruptive technology, called technological discontinuities. The disturbance influences firms to act, adopt, refine, and integrate this new technology that results in products or services redefining industry standards.

Dominant designs emerge from the closure and acceptance during eras of ferment in the war of technological discontinuity. What rises is from this, after variation, selection, and retention, is what gives firms the competitive edge to lead the market.  

When technological disruptions occur (and they occur rarely, as incremental innovations dominate the market against time), firms and their senior teams try to assess and identify the factor for the disruptive change. Therefore, there may be multiple innovations, or, variations. These can either significantly improve incumbent technology (competence-enhancing innovations) or completely change rules in the industry (competence-destroying innovations).

Source: Statista

Instagram has been a success-to-success social media giant after launching in 2010 on the initial value proposition of catering to photo-sharing enthusiast, connecting people through showcasing intimate view of their lives, encouraged by simple user interfaces. The social media conglomerate was in era of ferment with SnapChat, owned by Snap Inc. with technology discontinuity of temporary, short videos with expirations. Instagram responded by carefully refining this experience to fit into their current photo-sharing platform. The implementation and adoption was successful. With a combination of Instagram’s established audience and business’s needs to capture customers (previously it was restricted to one link on a profile) can now integrate themselves more into their consumers with the advent of Instagram Stories (Instagram Engineering, 2016).

A combination of influencers are needed to make a dominant design apparent. Competitors, alliances and government interests are the main determinants for dominant designs (Tushman, M. L., & Anderson, P. 2004). Because technology discontinuities are decided by people (and their interest) and not by sheer technology drive, it is possible for alternative designs to have superiority over the dominant design.

Engineering the Instagram Stories Team – Instagram Engineering. (2016, December 02). Retrieved September 22, 2017, from https://engineering.instagram.com/engineering-the-instagram-stories-team-e16ec62e364d

Gerdeman, G. (2016, September 26). How Rigid Leaders Kill Their Companies. Retrieved September 24, 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2016/09/26/how-rigid-leaders-kill-their-companies/#39be670340f7