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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read about troubles in new markets
To summarize the book is easy - it presents a simple and coherent view and model to explain why large companies must change tactics when confronted with new technologies. In essence a simple, clear and perhaps self-evident message: Large corporations must work differently in new markets, as opposed to improving the offering to it's existing market. It gives some ideas...
Published on 20 Nov 2000

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A useful read but not a business model
A well known and much touted book that has driven a significant mindset of 'disruption' and 'innovation' as the only way for a company to follow. An interesting read but you can't help feeling some of the examples have been selected to prove his point rather than present a complete picture.
Jill Lepore recently published a review stating "Disruptive innovation as...
Published 3 months ago by P. Filcek


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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read about troubles in new markets, 20 Nov 2000
By A Customer
To summarize the book is easy - it presents a simple and coherent view and model to explain why large companies must change tactics when confronted with new technologies. In essence a simple, clear and perhaps self-evident message: Large corporations must work differently in new markets, as opposed to improving the offering to it's existing market. It gives some ideas about why this is so: Internal funding goes to large projects than can afffect this or next years sales, initially small markets will not satisify a large company's need for short term growth, by definition new markets cannot be adequately researched and planned for etc. The big problem I have with the book is unfortunately the factual basis for most theories, Mr. Christensen uses the hard drive industry as prime example, because it happens to have the best data available. I find this similar to the story about the person looking for a lost key below a street light, and when asked how the key was lost answered "It was lost over there in the dark, but it is much easier to look here in the light". The successive generation of smaller and smaller hard drives seem too trivial an example industry for the general theory. Fortunately there are some less researched cases used as examples as well, and they do illustrate the points quite well. Personally I do agree with the author's conclusions - I just don't think that they are academically proven by using the hard disk industry as an example. Just to make it easy - why is it that Intel is still going strong in processors; it seems a pretty similar industry with at least as fast generation shifts? Finally the book is slight overweight for the rather lightweight message, but it is an easy read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cogent analysis of the origin and impact of new technology, 14 May 1999
By A Customer
This recognised classic can be read in many ways.
In one sense, it makes a general point about the introduction of new technologies. It's certainly true that a new technology will often appeal to price- , convenience- or reliability- concious markets, before it performs well enough to enter mainstream applications. The Internet itself is an example of this kind of "disruptive" technology (cf Papow's Enterprise.com).
Yet the book does more than make this point. It also analyses the effects of the arrival of new technology in several very different markets, and looks at how incumbents and new entrants responded. As one reads these vivid stories, impeccably researched, one can picture marketing departments scrambling, and CEOs evaluating their stock options.
The narration of Honda's entry into the American motorbike market, familiar to any MBA student, is given an added twist, based on the perspectives of the people who did it. It is almost worth buying the book just for that story.
Where it doesn't succeed so well - though it makes a valiant attempt - is in suggesting how companies might respond to the threat of cross-over technologies. This area might be helpfully expanded in future editions.
Nevertheless, a must-read for anyone serious about modern business.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disruptive technologies create a threat to large companies, 4 Feb 2002
By 
Coert Visser "solutionfocusedchange.com" (Driebergen Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This is a book is about successful, well-led companies -often market leaders- that carefully pay attention to what customers need and that invest heavily in new technologies, but still loose their market leadership suddenly. This can happen when disruptive technologies enter the stage. Most technologies improve the performance of existing products in relation to the criteria which existing customers have always used. These technologies are called sustaining technologies. Disruptive technologies do something different. They create an entirely new value proposition. They improve the performance of the product in relation to new performance criteria. Products which are based on disruptive technologies are often smaller, cheaper, simpler, and easier to use. However, the moment they are introduced, they can not at once compete against the traditional products and so they cannot directly reach a big market. Christensen researched how disruptive technologies have developed in the computer disk industry, an extremely rapid evolving industry. He identified six steps in the emergence of disruptive technologies:
1. Disruptive technologies often are invented in traditional large companies. Example: at Seagate Technology, the biggest producer of 5,25 disks, engineers in 1985 designed the first 3,5 disk.
2. The marketing department examines first reactions from important customers to the new technology. Then they notice that existing customers are not very interested and they conclude that not a lot of money can be made with the new product. Example: this is what happened at Seagate. The 3,5 disk's were put upon the shelf.
3. The company keeps on investing in the traditional technology. Performance improvement of the traditional technology is highly appreciated by existing customers and a lot of money is being made. Example: Seagate invested in the 5,25 disk technology. This led to considerable improvement of the technology and to a considerable improvement of sales.
4. New companies are started up (by ex-employees of the traditional companies) and markets for the new technology emerge by trial and error. Example: ex-Seagate people started up Corner Peripherals. This company focused on the small emerging market for 3,5 inch disks. In the beginning this was only for the laptop market.
5. The new players move up in the market. The performance of the new technologies gets better after some time, enabling them to compete better and better with the traditional companies and products. Example: the performance of the 3,5 disks improved drastically. The 3,5 inch disk moved up in the market, to the personal computer market. Corner pushed Seagate out of the PC market for 3,5 inch disk drives.
6. Traditional companies try to defend their market position and to get along in the new market. Often they notice that they have fallen behind so far, that they cannot keep up. Example: Seagate did not succeed in capturing a significant part of the new market for 3,5 inch disk drives for PC's.
The events described above can be understood by the four principles of disruptive technologies which Christensen formulates:
1. In well-led companies it is customers, not managers, who actually determine resources allocation. This is a proposition of the resources dependence theory (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978) which is supported strongly by the research of Christensen. In essence: middle managers will not tend to invest in technologies that are not directly appreciated by important (large) clients, because they will not be able to get quick financial gains by doing this.
2. Small markets can not fulfil the growth need of large companies. For several reasons, growth is important for companies. Unfortunately, the bigger the company, the harder it is to continue growth. A small company (40 million sales) with a growth target of 20%, must achieve 8 million extra sales. A large company (4 billion sales), has to achieve 800 million of extra sales! Emerging markets often simply are not large enough to fulfil such growth needs. They can, however, fulfil the growth needs of new small companies.
3. Markets that do not exist can not be analysed. The ultimate applications of disruptive technologies can not be foreseen on forehand. Failure is an intrinsic unavoidable step to success.
4. Technology supply does not always equal the market demand. The speed of technological progress is often bigger than the speed with which the customer demand develops. By improving the performance of the disruptive technologies (for instance the 3,5 inch disks, first only used in the laptop market), they became suitable for the larger PC-market.
These steps explain why traditional companies are often not capable of applying disruptive technologies. Christensen argues that you can not resist these four principles. What you can do however, is use them to your advantage. For instance: in a large company you can create an 'island' where the new technology is developed for the new market. Also it is possible get an ownership in emerging companies which develop the new technologies (several companies have done this successfully).
I think the innovator's Dilemma is an excellent book. The ideas are empirically foudend and together they form a coherent theoretical framework. The examples from the computer disk industry, the steel industry and others, are very well-documented and interesting. The book is logically structured and reads easily.
Coert Visser
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent and Thought Provoking Book, 11 Jan 1999
By A Customer
I work for a small, very high technology that has been in business for 50 years. This book really calls into question some of our strategies for the future. Are we developing disruptive or sustaining technologies? Are we staying too close to our customers in the federal government? I need to reread this book again and discuss its implications with my work team. I recommend it highly. It is very well researched and written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to a nice Theory, 13 July 2004
By 
Keith Appleyard "kapple999" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
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Not quite as easy to read as I would have liked. Christensen describes some very interesting & plausible theories, but is somewhat confined into employing the computer disk industry as the rapidly changing example which both demonstrates & proves his theories, and its not necessarily the most exciting case material. Other products only get a minor look-in.
What I did like is how he covers the footnotes at the end of each Chapter - so if they don't interest you, you can skip over them, but if they do interest you, then you don't have to struggle to the back of the book. I wish more authors & publishers would use that technique.
One quibble - given his Economics background - of course there are plenty of graphs, and 99% of them are straight lines - there are no time dependent variances in his world.
Read this before you read the Innovators Solution.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent analysis of growing industries and opportunities, 19 Aug 1997
By A Customer
This book provides an insightful analysis of growth opportunities provided by technological breakthroughs. It allows the reader to understand how the capacities that led firms to success may also lead to eventual failure. In addition, it explains why firms often fail to pursue new technologies that do not serve their immediate customer base and how that inaction may result in their demise.
The book is lucidly written and provides ample examples to support the hypothesis. It is one of the few business books today that provides new insight into exploiting technological innovation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent contribution to thought on innovation strategy, 11 Oct 1997
By A Customer
I loved this book because it challenges conventional management cliches about "customer focus". Christensen clearly outlines how customer focus becomes a trap when a firm is faced with a "disruptive technology". The book offers both theory and practical advice and does both well; a rare feat. I found this book directly relevant to my own organization's innovation strategy. A superb piece of work.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaping Over the Barriers You Create Against Innovation, 31 July 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This book clearly deserves more than five stars. It has positively influenced more technology executives than any other book.
The book does a wonderful job of explaining how traditions, bureaucracy, disbelief about the potential of new technologies, and misconceptions about the market hurt companies. Professor Christensen is a Boston Consulting Group alum, as am I, and that firm has been very interested in the question of why dominant firms lose out to new entrants featuring innovative technologies. Professor Christensen has written the best work on this subject that it has been my pleasure to read. Unlike most academics, he is rigorous without being dull or irrelevant to those who must operate businesses. I particularly found his exploration of the differences between a sustaining and a disruptive technology to be very useful. His insights into how accounting and financial concerns can "stall" organizational progress were also valuable.
His cases (especially the hard disk ones) accurately capture many of the classic "stalls" that delay organizational progress. For example, tradition says that everyone focuses on serving the current customers. That's where the bread and butter are. Also, the overhead structure is established to serve those current needs.
Both perspectives no longer serve when a disruptive technology is involved, and he persuasively argues that being first with disruptive technologies is usually very important.
Bureaucracy comes into play because the authorization process requires a lot of confidence by those who will bet their careers that the market and financial projections will be achieved. The bureaucracy also increases the likelihood that an error will be made, or an unnecessary delay will occur.
Disbelief comes from the tendency to misdefine who the customers will be and to underestimate the long-term potential of the technology. Professor Christensen puts in some nice technology development/time charts in to show how to better anticipate a new technology expanding from a lower need-defined market into the mainstream market.
Misconception comes in because people misunderstand the danger of the disruptive technology, and how to manage it. THE INNOVATOR'S DILEMMA is very hepful here because it provides a model of best practices to cure the misconception stall here.
Three other stalls are often important: Procrastination (delaying when delay is costly); Ugly Ducklings (avoiding what is unattractive, physically or financially); and Communications (not getting the message or not understanding the message). I suspect all 3 play a big role in the cases here, but I could not tell from the way the cases were written. I hope in his future work, Professor Christensen will also tie his thinking into the idea of innovation itself.
I personally favor an 8 step process for improving innovation. One, measure everything you can in an area to understand how the measurements can help you improve. Two, apply the same approach to your most important activities. Be sure to consider how and why noncustomers do not find your offerings appealing. Three, seek out the best practices in other industries in these important activities, and estimate where these best practices will be in five years. Four, assemble a new combination of best practices from these cases that goes beyond what any one company will be doing in five years. Five, imagine the best that anyone will ever be able to do, ever, as the ideal best practice. In the case of disruptive technologies this would involve spotting them well in advance and being able to pursue them without pain to the rest of the organization, and pursuing very rapid adoption that leads to dominating the new marketplace. Six, find ways to approach the ideal best practice. Seventh, put the best people, resources, and incentives together to create great success in exceeding the future best practice and approaching the ideal best practice. Eight, repeat steps one through seven.
Do buy, read, and apply the lessons of THE INNOVATOR'S DILEMMA. This is pure gold. Also, send Professor Christensen a friendly note to encourage him to do more studies like this one on innovation. He deserves our support.
I also suggest that you set up some skunk works to advance potentially disruptive technologies, as a way to develop more experience in improving your innovative potential. You may also wish to study Cisco's attempt to be technology agnostics, to see what you can learn from their experience as well.
Let innovation reign supreme!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The insights are in the soft stuff., 18 Feb 2001
By 
Alan Johnson (Lyon, France) - See all my reviews
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There is a strong predictive conclusion to this book, i.e. when developing new products, be careful which customer you listen to, especially if you are working in a category where there is an opportunity for a discontinuous change in technology. That conclusion is worth while, notwithstanding any quibbles on his telling of the history of the hard disc industry. However, further intrigue is added to the naritive by interpreting several other cases in the light of the "which customer to listen to principle", notably the Apple Newton and Discount Retailing. An book with many angles & levels that rewards several readings.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Business Leaders, 4 Sep 2008
In this classic work Christensen explains how success can be the enemy of innovation. Executives in successful companies listen to their customers (who typically want more of the same) and this misleads the listeners into avoiding new, lower quality technologies and disruptive innovations. He gives many cogent examples. It is a sobering piece of reading for any leader of a successful organisation.
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