Here in North Cornwall lies the sandy haven of Bude. Whilst walking the coastal footpath near the town’s magnificent sea-pool we saw a woman in some form of four-wheel drive wheelchair tearing over the dunes. She appeared to have absolutely no fear traveling at what must have been full speed. At ‘Dare To Be Purple’ we love talking to anyone with a ‘Purple’ attitude so this was a woman we definitely wanted to meet!
We eventually managed to catch up with her and she kindly stopped for a chat. It turned out she was testing the wheelchair for the manufacturer and given what we had seen she was definitely giving it a good workout. Now, we’re not here to plug the wheelchair, she wasn’t actually that impressed with it but what we do want to write more about is the cost of the thing!
Why does this and similar types of chairs cost the price of small, well equipped family cars?
Honestly tell us why are we having to pay between £10,000 and £15,000 for what are no more than glorified golf buggies?
All terrain wheelchairs are not revolutionary; they are generally no more than chairs with large wheels and thick treads, so where is the disruptive innovation to change this market and displace such ‘lazy’solutions?
Continuing the comparison, wheelchairs v cars, lets go back to when cars broke the mould, when something different happened – the late 19th century.
The early cars produced were innovative for their time but restricted to a very small market. They were an expensive luxury and therefore did not disrupt the mass transportation system, horse-drawn vehicles. This market essentially remained intact until the debut of the lower-priced Ford Model T in 1908. The mass-produced automobile was a disruptive innovation, because it changed the market, whereas the first thirty years of automobiles did not.
I’m not saying we need mass production to solve the problem of all terrain wheelchairs but we do need a disruptive event of some kind and lets not rely on current manufacturers to deliver this. Disruptive innovations tend to be produced by outsiders, entrepreneurs rather than existing market-leading companies. Why? Essentially the business environment of today does not allow them to pursue disruptive innovations because their development takes scarce resources away from getting the most revenue from existing products.
So what’s the answer if we want some real disruptive innovation?
At ‘Dare To Be Purple’ we believe that the successful formula for a disruptive market is inspirirational designers and lots of aspirational consumers -people who demand more than what they are being offered. We’re continually looking for the designs that offer more and we could do with the help of aspirational customers to do this. Why not join us on Twitter and Facebook and help give designers an agenda for some disruption support them to help manufacturers be a bit more ‘Purple’, a bit more responsive. If not, we’ll continue to pay family car prices for smart looking golf buggies for some time to come and given that choice I’d rather have a Fiesta!