Dean's Message

Joe Phillips

When Clayton M. Christensen came up with the theory of disruptive innovation 27 years ago, the premise applied to small companies. These were challenger brands that identified and created modest solutions for unaddressed customer audiences, eventually growing their product offerings and successfully catching up with entrenched market leaders. Think Netflix dislodging Blockbuster. Or digital cameras supplanting film cameras.

Disruption has since then evolved into a popular label affixed to any market newcomer causing waves, Christensen and colleagues Michael E. Raynor and Rory McDonald wrote in this Harvard Business Review piece in 2015. Uber is such an example, they stated. It didn’t provide ‘good enough’ services to a low-end customer segment. Neither did it create a market where none existed.

It's understandable why the idea of disruption -- mostly the rule-breaking aspect of it -- has captured our collective imaginations. Disruption drives creativity and lateral thinking. It encourages strategic risk taking. And it inspires like no other. Who doesn’t like a David and Goliath story?

The three stories for this Albers Brief focus on disruption in different areas and on different levels:

  • Majed Al Sorour, BABA ’02 and MPA ‘04, is deputy chairman and CEO of Golf Saudi, the organization behind LIV Golf. We caught up with Al Sorour to ask if LIV’s vision of golf, arguably the most talked about disruption of the moment in sports, can co-exist with that of the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA).
  • NIL or Name, Image, and Likeness is disrupting the power dynamics of college sports, writes Natalie Welch, assistant professor of our MBA in Sport and Entertainment Management. Although incredibly complex, Welch says it’s exciting how NIL is creating an opportunity for female athletes to profit off their most lucrative years in the spotlight.
  • Votegrity aims to disrupt elections in the private sector, starting with those held by homeowner association (HOAs), unions, and private clubs. Votegrity founder and CEO Tom Thomas, LEMBA ’20, had been in the election technology business since 2020 and spotted the opportunity to bring the same rigors of voting in the public sector to the private sector. ‘A 300-person election may take as much as 6,200 pages of paper, 900 envelopes, and several hundred dollars in no value-add postage,’ he says.

Steve Jobs very famously said that he was always attracted to the more revolutionary changes in business ‘because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed.’ The three stories in this magazine may not fit Christensen’s classic theory of disruption perfectly, but they certainly make us think of possibilities. We hope you enjoy this edition of the Albers Brief.

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Joseph M. Phillips
Dean, Albers School of Business and Economics

Fall 2022 Stories