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Jim Letourneau's Blog

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On Disruption...

Clayton Christensen on disruptive technology/innovation via the Economist...

On the one hand he described what he called “sustaining technologies”, technological developments that help organisations to make marginal improvements in what they are doing. These require only gradual change and pretty much retain the status quo.

On the other hand, there are what Christensen termed disruptive technologies. These are wild and unexpected technological breakthroughs that require corporations to radically rethink their very existence. At first they seem of limited interest, but eventually they completely overturn existing products and markets. Christensen quotes the examples of the mobile phone (which took the wind out of the sails of fixed-line operators), digital photography (which sent sales of camera film plummeting and caused Kodak to change its whole business model) and online retailing (which continues to bruise many a traditional retailer).

One problem with disruptive technologies is that they do not always hit the market with a bang. They are often born prematurely, so that those firms which pioneer them see their performance deteriorate at first.

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