disruptive innovation

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Definition

...disruptive innovation is a technological innovation, product, or service that eventually overturns the existing dominant technology or status quo product in the market. Disruptive innovations can be broadly classified into lower-end and new-market disruptive innovations. A new-market disruptive innovation is often aimed at non-consumption, whereas a lower-end disruptive innovation is aimed at mainstream customers who were ignored by established companies.

Sometimes, a disruptive technology comes to dominate an existing market by either filling a role in a new market that the older technology could not fill (as more expensive, lower capacity but smaller-sized hard disks did for newly developed notebook computers in the 1980s) or by successively moving up-market through performance improvements until finally displacing the market incumbents (as digital photography has begun to replace film photography).

By contrast, ""sustaining technology or innovation"" improves product performance of established products. Sustaining technologies are often incremental; however, they can also be radical or discontinuous.

The term disruptive technology was coined by Clayton M. Christensen and introduced in his 1995 article Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave, which he coauthored with Joseph Bower. He describes the term further in his 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma. In his sequel, The Innovator's Solution, Christensen replaced disruptive technology with the term disruptive innovation because he recognized that few technologies are intrinsically disruptive or sustaining in character. It is the strategy or business model that the technology enables that creates the disruptive impact. The concept of disruptive technology continues a long tradition of the identification of radical technical change in the study of innovation by economists, and the development of tools for its management at a firm or policy level.

Source: Wikipedia contributors, ""Disruptive technology,"" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Disruptive_technology&oldid=160259906 (accessed September 30, 2007).