A disruptive technology is an innovation that disrupts an existing market. Clayton Christensen who introduced the term defines it as:
“An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.”
In the book, The Innovator’s Solution, (2003) the Christensen replaces “disruptive technology” with “disruptive innovation” arguing that it is not in fact the technology that disrupts the market but more the business process that was put in place to support the technology.
(Photo Credit: Roland Tangalo)
Disruptive innovations often destroy the incumbents within the market of which the technology was introduced. Take for example:
Disruptive technology can be classified as either:
This targets customers who require less features, functionality or performance to that which is offered at the top end of the market.
An example would be 37 Signals Basecamp application, which offers a simple set of project management tools. These tools do not come close to the functionality offered by for example Microsoft Project, however there is a still a large set of customers who find the functionality offered by basecamp perfectly adequate for their needs.
Providers of low end disruptive technology ultimately want to increase their market share and they do this by adding new incremental or sustaining innovations to their product or by simply adding more features. Over time due to the aforementioned changes the product may get more of the market and slowly squeeze the incumbents out of the market. At this point the disruption may move to…
This targets customers who have requirements that are not being met by the markets existing incumbents.
An example would be the Linux operating system which when first introduced back in the early 1990’s was quite basic in terms of performance and functionality. However, as time progressed, more and more features were added and the performance was improved so that today Linux has almost completely replaced Unix and is now installed in most of the world’s fastest supercomputers.