Disruptive Technology

Disruptive technology is a technology that changes the basis for competition in an industry. It is often introduced by new players, and often for various reasons the mainstream players ignore it until it is too late, and may never catch up again, and even go out of business.

The idea of disruptive technology was introduced to the world by Clayton Christensen in his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma’. published in 1997. By disruptive technology we don’t mean the next technology coming along that everyone is working on. We mean technology that the main players are not working on, but someone else is.

Not only is a disruptive technology often developed by companies not currently in the industry (either established, but in another industry, or start-ups), but the technology may not be that good to start with, underperforming existing technologies. Thus even if it is noticed by the big boys it is ignored as being ‘Mickey Mouse’.

However it succeeds because despite this drawback it has something that some people want (cost, ease-of-use, whatever), and so it finds a market.

Then as it develops and gets more capable that market grows and starts to take customers from the traditional suppliers. Now it starts to get noticed, but the traditional players have so much invested in the old technology that it is difficult for them to change. Also they are worried that if they do change, they will cannibalise their own products and possibly lose some important existing customers in the process.

And so it goes on, with the original big boys retreating into a high end niche market, leaving the mass market to the new players, who may ultimately take over the high end market as well. The Greeks probably had a term for when you can see your fate unrolling but you are powerless to do anything about it.

This picture describes the process:

Disruptive Technology

If you think you may be susceptible to a disruptive technology, or if you think that you may have developed one and what to discuss what to do, please contact us.