Are Clayton Christensenís Disruptive Innovation Characteristics Useful in Practice?

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Rick Mueller
Professor, United States

Are Clayton Christensenís Disruptive Innovation Characteristics Useful in Practice?

A recent write up published in MIT Sloan Management Review concludes that Disruptive Innovation theory is "not very useful" for making predictions based on research in which 77 cases from Christensenís first two books (The Innovatorís Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution) were checked for four characteristics deemed to be fundamental to Disruptive Innovation:

  1. Incumbents improving along a trajectory of sustaining innovation.
  2. They overshoot customer needs.
  3. They possess the capability to respond to disruptive threats.
  4. They end up floundering as a result of the disruption.
Professor Andrew A. King and Baljir Baatartogtokh assert that only 7 of the cases contained all 4 of the elements of the theory. The majority of the 77 cases included different motivating forces (such as legacy costs, the effect of numerous competitors, changing economies of scale, and shifting social conditions) or displayed unpredicted outcomes.
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