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CHRISTENSEN, Clayton M.



The Innovator’s Dilemma

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Disruptive technologies bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously. Generally, disruptive technologies underperform established products in mainstream markets. But they have other features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value. Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper, simpler, smaller, and, frequently, more convenient to use. There are many examples in addition to the personal desktop computer and discount retailing examples cited above. Small off-road motorcycles introduced in North America and Europe by Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha were disruptive technologies relative to the powerful, over-the-road cycles made by Harley-Davidson and BMW. Transistors were disruptive technologies relative to vacuum tubes. Health maintenance organizations were disruptive technologies to conventional health insurers. In the near future, “internet appliances” may become disruptive technologies to suppliers of personal computer hardware and software.

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The reason is that good management itself was the root cause. Managers played the game the way it was supposed to be played. The very decision-making and resource-allocation processes that are key to the success of established companies are the very processes that reject disruptive technologies: listening carefully to customers; tracking competitors’ actions carefully; and investing resources to design and build higher-performance, higher-quality products that will yield greater profit. These are the reasons why great firms stumbled or failed when confronted with disruptive technological change.”

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