Disruptive Innovation

Share This
« Back to Glossary Index
  • Rating:
  • (433)

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network, displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market. (Source: WikiPedia)

Disruptive Innovation (Wikipedia)
Types of Innovation
Sustaining
An innovation that does not affect existing markets. It may be either:
Evolutionary
An innovation that improves a product in an existing market in ways that customers are expecting (e.g., fuel injection)
Revolutionary (discontinuous, radical)
An innovation that is unexpected, but nevertheless does not affect existing markets (e.g., the automobile)
Disruptive
An innovation that creates a new market by applying a different set of values, which ultimately (and unexpectedly) overtakes an existing market (e.g., the lower-priced Ford Model T)

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leaders and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995. More recent sources also include "significant societal impact" as an aspect of disruptive innovation.

Not all innovations are disruptive, even if they are revolutionary. For example, the automobile was not a disruptive innovation, because early automobiles were expensive luxury items that did not disrupt the market for horse-drawn vehicles. The market for transportation 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 transportation market, whereas the first thirty years of automobiles did not.

Disruptive innovations tend to be produced by outsiders. The business environment of market leaders does not allow them to pursue disruption when they first arise, because they are not profitable enough at first and because their development can take scarce resources away from sustaining innovations (which are needed to compete against current competition). A disruptive process can take longer to develop than by the conventional approach and the risk associated to it is higher than the other more incremental or evolutionary forms of innovations, but once it is deployed in the market, it achieves a much faster penetration and higher degree of impact on the established markets.

About David Rashty

David Rashty, an entrepreneur and one of the early web pioneers, has over twenty years’ experience as a CTO and a CEO. He has been involved in several start-ups and established companies and was the founder of two successful ventures.David is currently using his proven leadership and management skills to act as a Part Time CTO or "JumpStart" CTO for several early-stage ventures; this includes helping them design and develop their product and IT infrastructure.David holds a BS in computer science and an M.Sc in educational technology. He has been a adjunct university professor, given numerous workshops, written several books and articles on information technology and received numerous innovation awards.