The Word 'Disruptive' in Disruptive Innovation

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Disruptive Innovation > Forum > The Word 'Disruptive' in Disruptive Innovation

The Word 'Disruptive' in Disruptive Innovation
Dr. Alan Williams, Professor, Thailand, Member
I wonder if the term 'disruptive' is in fact the appropriate word.
If it's agreed that it means: unexpected, large scale, sudden, different approach innovation or large unexpected / clever changes to a product (or something similar) which will capture very strong attention from potential buyers, perhaps quickly gain a large market share or massively increase market share then is 'disruptive' an appropriate / easy to understand clear descriptor?
Further, it might be argued that the word 'disruptive looks like 'destructive' which has a strong negative connotation. I believe disruptive innovation is not a negative scenario.
So again: is the word 'disruptive' the appropriate word?

The Meaning of the Word DISRUPTIVE
Ivo Frielink, Netherlands, Member
I would argue that it is not so much the word disruptive that is the issue with disruptive innovation. The issue I feel is that almost everything in terms of rapid market change and new entrants is called disruptive innovation (Uber, whats app you name it). I would like to suggest we should only use this term if we want to point Clayton Christensen's theory on this topic. This would "clean up" the discussion on innovation and eradicate disruption as a buzz word.
The negative association with disruptive (like destructive) is to some extend correct, I feel. And indeed from the point of view of the incumbent(s) this form of disruption is truly destructive.

Background of the Term DISRUPTIVE
Rick Mueller, Professor, United States, SIG Leader
In an article in the New Yorker (which is a remarkably cognizant recapitualization of how and on what motivation the theory was developed), Christensen is said to have referred to LOW-END products which would represent a NEW TECHNICAL STANDARD as “disruptive technologies,” because, rather than sustaining technological progress toward better performance, they disrupted it.

Michael Raynor also observes the manner in which this same phenomena became the basis for Christensen's original thesis, wherein the changing of the dominant architecture for disk drives coincided precisely with the reduction (rather than an increase) in traditionally measured product capability.

As to whether Christensen could have selected a more definitive (and less prone to abuse) name for the phenomena - he often says that he would have had he known the long-term implications. But then that goes for much of what us humans do, does it not?
Hope this helps.

Special Interest Group Leader
Rick Mueller

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