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Disruptive Innovation


Disruptive Innovation refers to a new development that significantly alters the way a market or sector operates, often making previous technologies or strategies obsolete. It usually introduces a new approach, system, or product that offers superior attributes or lower costs. This shift happens unexpectedly and can displace established market-leading companies and products.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Disruptive Innovation” is: Dis-ruhp-tiv In-uh-vey-shuhn

Key Takeaways

  1. Disruptive Innovation usually starts in niche markets: These innovations often begin targeting small, overlooked segments in the marketplace, offering simpler, more convenient, or affordable solutions than those provided by established players. As they gain traction, they start to displace existing, mainstream products, services or technologies.
  2. Disruptive Innovation can lead to industry transformation: When successful, this type of innovation causes a significant shift in industry norms, often disrupting the status effective operations and strategies of incumbents. They may significantly influence consumer behavior, leveraging technology advancements and novel business models.
  3. Established companies often struggle with Disruptive Innovation: Larger, established companies often find it challenging to respond to or implement such innovations due to their inherent structures and processes, which are primarily fine-tuned for sustaining innovation. This inertia often provides a window of opportunity for smaller, more flexible companies to invade the market.


Disruptive Innovation, a term first coined by Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen, is crucial in the realm of business and finance because it refers to a new development that dramatically changes the way a market or industry functions, often creating new markets and value networks. It can represent a significant opportunity for companies to grow and achieve competitive advantage. A disruptive innovation is not just an improvement of existing products or services, but a complete transformation that “disrupts” and challenges the status quo, often overthrowing established market leaders. Examples of such innovations include how streaming services transformed the entertainment industry, or how digital banking is affecting the traditional banking sector. Understanding and harnessing the power of disruptive innovation can be fundamental to a firm’s long-term success and survival.


Disruptive Innovation serves as a catalyst for industry transformation, propelling fresh ideas and novel approaches that reshape markets and change the way business is conducted. It fundamentally uproots and alters the nature of competition, pushing businesses to unite technological advances with strategies that meet consumer needs in new and superior ways. This concept underscores the importance of adaptability and creativity in business, driving companies to continually reimagine their capabilities and systems to stay ahead of the curve. The purpose of Disruptive Innovation is to create a competitive advantage by delivering better value or by transforming less efficient market models. Whether it’s a new product that redefines customer expectations, a service that greatly simplifies user experiences, or a process that drastically enhances productivity and reduces costs, Disruptive Innovation often creates new markets or revamps existing ones. Essentially, it’s used to keep businesses progressive, impactful and versatile, while continually elevating the threshold for operational and performance excellence.


1. Netflix: One of the most notable examples of disruptive innovation in the past couple of decades is Netflix’s disruption of the video rental industry. Originally, video rental was carried out in physical stores like Blockbuster. People had to physically go to a store, choose a movie, and return it by a certain date. Netflix changed all of this by offering mail-in subscriptions, and then eventually streaming services. This has drastically changed the way we consume media, making it readily available at our fingertips. 2. Amazon: Amazon began as an online bookstore, which disrupted the physical bookstore industry by offering a greater variety at lower prices. But it didn’t stop there. Amazon further leveraged technology to introduce the concept of e-readers with the launch of Kindle. This allowed users instant access to millions of books without ever having to step foot into a physical bookstore. Today, Amazon has also disrupted the retail market as a whole by being an online platform where people can purchase virtually anything. 3. Uber: The taxi industry has been significantly disrupted by ride-sharing apps like Uber. Before Uber, people had to hail taxis on the street or call a taxi company to book a ride. Uber introduced a platform where riders could request a ride from their smartphone and know exactly when their driver would arrive. By utilizing idle cars and giving more people the ability to become drivers, Uber has caused major disruption in the transportation industry. Furthermore, it forced traditional taxi companies to innovate and adapt to these new technologies in order to keep up.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Disruptive Innovation?
Disruptive Innovation refers to a new technology, product, or service that disrupts an existing market by providing a more efficient, affordable solution.
Who coined the term Disruptive Innovation?
The term Disruptive Innovation was coined by Clayton M. Christensen in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma.
Can you provide an example of Disruptive Innovation?
An example of disruptive innovation is the rise of streaming services like Netflix, which disrupted the traditional cable and broadcasting industry.
Is Disruptive Innovation a positive or negative phenomenon?
It depends on the perspective. For consumers and the innovating company, it can be positive as it often leads to lower costs and improved products or services. However, for existing businesses that cannot keep up with the change, it can be negative.
Do all Disruptive Innovations succeed?
Not necessarily. While some disruptive innovations revolutionize industries and markets, others fail due to factors like lack of market understanding, insufficient resources, or poor strategic management.
How can businesses prepare for Disruptive Innovations?
Businesses can prepare by continuously monitoring and adapting to changes in their industry, investing in research and development, and staying flexible in their business approach.
Why should companies pay attention to Disruptive Innovation?
Companies should focus on disruptive innovation because it can challenge their current business models, impact market share, and potentially lead to their products or services becoming obsolete if not addressed.
Are Disruptive Innovations limited to technology industries?
No, disruptive innovations can take place in any industry. While they are common in technology, we’ve also seen disruptive innovations in fields like healthcare, education, and transportation.
Can established companies drive Disruptive Innovation?
Yes, while startups are often associated with Disruptive Innovation, established businesses can also drive this change, especially when they invest significantly in research and development or when they leverage their resources to adopt new technologies or methodologies.
Is there a difference between Disruptive Innovation and Sustaining Innovation?
Yes. Sustaining innovation refers to gradual improvements or advancements in existing products, services, or technologies. In contrast, disruptive innovation involves creating new, innovative solutions that disrupt existing markets.

Related Finance Terms

  • Technological Advancements
  • Creative Destruction
  • Value Networks
  • Emerging Markets
  • New Market Disruption

Sources for More Information

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