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