Deconstructing “Disruption”

In March of this year, the New York Times published the results of its intense study of Innovation. The report contains one of the most concise and clear definitions I have seen of the much-talked-about concept of disruption. Here are some important quotes from that report:

Incumbents treat innovation as a series of incremental improvements. They focus on improving the quality of their premium products to sustain their current business model. Disruptors introduce new products that, at first, do not seem like a threat. Their products are cheaper, with poor quality – to begin with. (But), over time, disruptors improve their product, usually by adapting a new technology. The flashpoint comes when their products become ‘good enough’ for most customers. They are now poised to grow by taking market share from incumbents.”

The report also lists five significant characteristic of Disruptive activities:

  • Introduced by an “outsider”
  • Less expensive than existing products
  • Targeting underserved or new markets
  • Initially inferior to existing products
  • Advanced by an enabling technology

The full report is here: 224608514-The-Full-New-York-Times-Innovation-Report


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