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Driven by the need for change through impact, growth and innovation, disruptive sustainable technology (DST) is not a concept that can be so easily digested as a whole. While DST contains elements from both disruptive and sustainable technology, the conversation around the term itself draws upon a unique disposition. Rather than focusing on the development of new technology, DST discussion is fueled by the impact of disruptive innovation and growth, while being supplemented by technology.

In other words, think of the crossroads where disruptive and sustainable technologies meets business models. That’s essentially what DST is all about.

“This is what makes the Disruptive Sustainability Technology conference so interesting,” said Brett Trusko, President and Chief Executive Officer, The International Association of Innovation Professionals. “When one simply looks at sustainable technology, he or she would find solar panels, geothermal and others. What disrupts sustainable technology is when alternatives and Distributed Energy Resources (DER) come into play.”

Continued Trusko, “Disruptive sustainable technologies are those that change the sustainability algorithm. For example, when batteries, sun, wind, LPG and others work together in harmony to deliver the best alternative at the time when it is most efficient.”

The risks and rewards associated with DST are numerous. Businesses whose markets are entrenched within DST must be actively aware of, and involved with, their competitors. Falling behind in this sense may leave a business as being the disrupted, rather than the disruptor. Said Trusko, “Businesses locating in markets where DST are the norm can have significant advantages over more traditional markets.

“For example, one can build a server farm in a location that has vast hydroelectric reserves, but there is always the risk that fish become endangered, or water flows are not up to what is expected…Without the ability to tap several energy opportunities these [types of] businesses always run the risk of disruption.”

On the subject of new DSTs in progress, Trusko said, “The introduction of newer batteries combined with technology to allow greater flexibility in the grid, means that energy will flow from the right place to the right place at the right time. At the moment, much of this is not possible on the current grid, but those that master the new paradigm will be at a great advantage.”

Disruptive sustainable technology is the catalyst for a conversation unique to the 21st century company. As the intersection of disruptive technology and sustainable technology continues to influence business models, companies will need to be ready to adapt to, or combat, change at a moment’s notice. But who should be a part of who monitors and encourages change in an organization?

“The Chief Innovation Officer is the individual who should take responsibility for creating a culture and management system that promotes the development of new technology in a company,” explained Trusko.

He continued, “The “innovation department” should continuously scan for new technology, then work together with functional departments in whatever way they feel most competent in order to adopt and implement the technology by the best team.

“Many times the functional team leads the implementation, while supported by the innovation team, but it can be just as likely that the innovation team leads the implementation, with the functional team in a support role. The entire process is episodic and therefore be done in many ways”

While the future is uncertain, one item remains clear. The context of this conversation is rapidly evolving, and organizations will need to be on their toes if they wish to remain ahead of the curve.


Brett Trusko will be speaking at the Disruptive Sustainability conference on a panel entitled Business Model Disruption Five Years Out: How Innovation Drives Company Value on August 23 in Palo Alto, CA.

Originally published on Forbes.com. More articles by Christopher Skroupa on his Forbes column.

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