What is Disruptive Innovation Exactly? Definition

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What is Disruptive Innovation Exactly? Definition
Rick Mueller, Student (University), United States

A "definition" of Disruptive Innovation that's frequently quoted is one which is located on Christensen's website. It reads:
"DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors".

So then here is my concern. We know that not every "product or service that takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market" is a disruptive innovation, since there are a great number of products which occupy niches in which it appears they will remain for eternity without becoming the dominant means to accomplish (what is many times) the same function as that served by the more expensive product.

Therefore the defining term of Christensen's definition must be in "relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors". But isnít the objective of all innovation, and particularly of sustaining (non-disruptive) innovation - e.g. to compete for and keep as much market share as possible on the basis of superior product and operational efficiencies?

So I take it then that while the conditions listed on Christensen's web page may be necessary for disruption, they are not sufficient.

What then ought we to suppose IS sufficient to differentiate Disruptive Innovation from all other innovation?
Or am I just interpreting this incorrectly?

Weaknesses in Christensen's 'Definition' of Disruptive Innovation
Think Disruptive, Business Consultant, United States
What you describe as a "definition" really isn't. It's a gross simplification designed to capture the attention of business people who aren't motivated to learn the nooks + crannies of the theory. It neither fully describes the pattern, nor is is prescriptive or predictive as you've noted. It's simply a generalization -- a summary statement which is usually, but not always true about disruptive innovations.
There are instances where each "condition" of this description can be false.
- Disruptions don't always initially take root in simple applications
- Don't always enter at the bottom of the market (depends on which market)
- Don't always "move relentlessly upmarket"
- Don't always displace established competitors (unless you define "displace" very precisely to mean become the new dominant paradigm -- most of the time competitors survive, just in a lessened or niche form).
Unfortunately, Christensen's vague/ambiguous statements such as this are why most don't agree what it means.

Pehaps the Weakness is in our Interpretation?
Rick Mueller, Student (University), United States
OK, so it's taken that when looking at Christensen's web site's criterion there are some instances of Disruptive Innovation that we might say don't necessarily adhere to one criteria or another. But looking at it a different way - can we identify any cases where an application did:
- Take root in simple applications, and
- Entered at the bottom of the market, and
- Moved relentlessly upmarket, and
- Displaced established competitors
that we wouldn't want to call Disruptive Innovation? In other words, while there may be some cases that we might like to call Disruptive Innovation that did not meet one or more of the Christensen website criteria, are there any cases which do meet all of the criteria where we'd still be reluctant to call it Disruptive Innovation, or is adherence to "all of the above" a guarantee of imminent Disruption?

No, the Weakness Isn't in Interpretation; It's in an Unusable 'Definition'
Think Disruptive, Business Consultant, United States
No, that sort of supposition is exactly like Tim Hunt blaming female scientists for being distractingly sexy -- just as the problem is with him (not them), the problem here is with a definition that isn't.
To be useful in defining a theory, a definition must
A) be unambiguous
B) not be a prima facie false statement
C) be useful in identifying genuine cases that fit the theory
D) not be riddled with false positives which aren't easily disambiguated
E) not be riddled with false negatives
The best that can be said about the general statement you offered is that it is often true. It's also often not true, and easily misinterpreted by almost anyone, and therefore is not a usable definition.
Your suggestion that we only consider whether the statement is true if all conditions are met doesn't make sense because it only includes a small subset of disruptive innovations. And, the answer to your question is "yes". Many niche products meet all criteria.

Any Examples (even One)?
Rick Mueller, Student (University), United States
On the basis of your suggestion I'm trying to think of even one niche product that simultaneously fulfilled the "moved relentlessly upmarket' requirement and the "displaced established competitors" requirement but weren't Disruptive and nothing comes immediately to mind. Thoughts?

What Disruptive Innovation Means
Francisco Encarnado, Management Consultant, Philippines
In my own understanding, the term "disruptive" is something that cause trouble to an existing flow of a particular matter in a normal condition of the situation, whereas "innovation", as the word stand for, is something that is new and non of its kind has been in the world for no reason at all.
Thus, when we say "disruptive innovation", we may claim that the idea, the matter, product or services that is considered to be disruptive innovation is something that will be in existence for the first time and has caused a change to what is currently the normal situation in the world.
This may come in the form of a product, services, or a process that has not be used before and is due to an innovative mind of a person or a team that introduced it and created a change on the currently accepted normal life of people with respect to the product, service or maybe a process that will make a difference in the life of people or the company.


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