The term disruptive technologies was coined by Clayton M. Christensen and introduced in his 1995 article Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave, which he co-wrote with Joseph Bower. The article is aimed at managing executives who make the funding/purchasing decisions in companies rather than the research community. He describes the term further in his book TheInnovator's Dilemma. (1997) In his sequel, The Innovator's Solution, (2003) Christensen replaced disruptive technology with the term disruptive innovation because he recognized that few technologies are intrinsically disruptive or sustaining in character. It is the strategy or business model that the technology enables that creates the disruptive impact. The concept of disruptive technology continues along tradition of the identification of radical technical change in the study of innovation by economists, and the development of tools for its management at a firm or policy level. However, Christensen's evolution from a technological focus to a business modelling focus is central to understanding the evolution of business at the market or industry level. For example, Christensen's contemporaryemphasis on the applied business model rather than the technology itself was developed by Henry Chesbrough's pioneering notion of Open Innovation.
Christensen defines a disruptive innovation as a product or service designed for a new set of customers.
"Generally, disruptive innovations were technologically straightforward, consisting of off-the-shelf components put together in a productarchitecture that was often simpler than prior approaches. They offered less of what customers in established markets wanted and so could rarely be initially employed there. They offered a different package of attributes valued only in emerging markets remote from, and unimportant to, the mainstream."
Christensen argues that disruptive innovations can hurt successful, well managed companies that areresponsive to their customers and have excellent research and development. These companies tend to ignore the markets most susceptible to disruptive innovations, because the markets have very tight profit margins and are too small to represent significant growth.
How low-end disruption occurs over time.
Christensen distinguishes between "low-end disruption" which targets customers who do notneed the full performance valued by customers at the high end of the market and "new-market disruption" which targets customers who have needs that were previously unserved by existing incumbents.
"Low-end disruption" occurs when the rate at which products improve exceeds the rate at which customers can adopt the new performance. Therefore, at some point the performance of the productovershoots the needs of certain customer segments. At this point, a disruptive technology may enter the market and provide a product which has lower performance than the incumbent but which exceeds the requirements of certain segments, thereby gaining a foothold in the market.
In low-end disruption, the disruptor is focused initially on serving the least profitable customer, who is happy with a goodenough product. This type of customer is not willing to pay premium for enhancements in product functionality. Once the disruptor has gained foot hold in this customer segment, it seeks to improve its profit margin. To get higher profit margins, the disruptor needs to enter the segment where the customer is willing to pay a little more for higher quality. To ensure this quality in its product, thedisruptor needs to innovate. The incumbent will not do much to retain its share in a not so profitable segment, and will move up-market and focus on its more attractive customers. After a number of such encounters, the incumbent is squeezed into smaller markets than it was previously serving. And then finally the disruptive technology meets the demands of the most profitable segment and drives the...
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