Those who have read Larry Downes' previous book, The Laws of Disruption: Harnessing the New Forces that Govern Life and Business in the Digital Age (2009), and/or Paul Nunes' previous book, Jumping the S-Curve: How to Beat the Growth Cycle, Get on Top, and Stay There (2011), were probably as excited as I was to learn that they have collaborated on Big Bang Disruption in which, yes, they develop some of their prior insights in much greater depth but, key point, they provide additional information, insights, and counsel of an equally high quality that offer the substantial value-added benefit of their collaborative, as Roger Martin would characterize it, their integrative thinking.
As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of Charles Darwin's observation, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." Downes and Nunes suggest that a new paradigm, Big Bang Disruption, occurs much faster and has much greater impact than does the process of natural selection to which Darwin referred. However, in both instances, the given species -- biological or organizational -- must adapt or perish.
I was also reminded of the material that Ichak Adizes provides in Corporate Lifecycles: How and Why Corporations Grow and Die and What to Do About It (1990). In this book, what he views as the ideal combination, the ideal balance, of four critical "factors" (i.e. performance, administration, entrepreneurship, and integration) will always be a "moving target" under constant "attack" by internal as well as external forces, each organization must constantly be aware of what that ideal combination is for it at any given time, what that ideal balance should be. Change is the only constant. Downes and Nunes agree while noting that Big Bang Disruption (for better or worse) can occur almost anywhere and at almost any time; also, whereas the lifecycle that Adizes describes can be either progressive or regressive, extended over a period of time (years and even decades), the one Downes and Nunes have identified has the power "to undermine stable businesses in a matter of months and even days."
The information, insights, and counsel that Downes and Nunes provide in this book are based on years of wide and deep research, in conjunction with the Accenture Institute for High Performance, that focuses on disruptive innovation in more than thirty industry segments, research that generated more than a hundred detailed case studies, "many recent but some historical."
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Downes and Nunes' coverage.
o Exponential Technologies (Pages 21-30)
o What Makes a Big Bang Disruption (30-41)
o The Economics of Organizational Transformation (46-47)
o Undisciplined Strategy: The Declining Cost of Creation (48-57)
o Unconstrained Growth: The Declining Cost of Information (57-65)
o Unencumbered Development: The Declining Cost of Experimentation (65-74)
o The New Life Cycle of Industry Transformation -- The Shark Fin (77-83)
o The Four Stages of Big Bang Disruption (83-85)
o Pinball, the Replay (85-95)
o Four Stages of the Shark Fin (103-106)
o The Singularity: Three Rules (107-112)
o The Big Bang (143-167)
o The Big Crunch (171-178)
o Entropy (203-209)
o Four Kinds of Specialization (236-240)
As Downes and Nunes explain, academic thinking about disruptive innovation has evolved through three phases during recent decades: Michael Porter's advocacy of "three generic strategies," for example, suggests a top-down approach whereas Clayton Christensen's insights in The Innovator's Dilemma suggest that many (most?) of what what he called "disruptive" technologies usually start as inferior alternatives that enter the market at the bottom and work their way up as the new technology is improved. Downes and Nunes are convinced that they now enter the market as superior alternatives right from the start. So what? Incumbents can no longer await the appearance of inferior disruptors as their signal to start thinking about what they might do with the new technology sometime in the future. That's now a recipe for disaster. Business thinkers such as W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgnue (in Blue Open Strategy) fine-tune the bottom-up approach while suggesting that some innovations (like spontaneous combustion) can occur whenever and wherever the right conditions exist.
Downes and Nunes make a convincing argument that Big Bang Disruption heralds a new phase, the fourth phase. It has three defining characteristics: undisciplined strategy, unconstrained growth, and unencumbered development. The implications have immense (albeit potential) importance. For example, the innovations that Big Bang Disruption makes possible can be achieved by almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be, creating new, opportunities whose nature and extent are unprecedented: undisciplined strategy is possible because of the cost of creation just as unconstrained growth is possible because of the reduced cost of information and unencumbered development because of the reduced cost of experimentation.
Long ago, someone asked Henri Matisse if he painted all the time. "Oh heavens no, but when my muse visits me, I better have a brush in my hand." The same can be said of Big Bang Disruption. Business leaders must understand that it can achieve great success for their organization but, paradoxically, that success can then destroy it if they do not manage with rigor and prudence the opportunities that success creates.
No brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the scope and depth of the material that Larry Downes and Paul Nunes provide in this volume. However, I hope that I have indicated why I think so highly of it. For many executives, this may well prove to be among the most important business books they will ever read. Whether or not their organizations engage in Big Bang Disruption, they can at least avoid being devastated by it.
on 19 June 2014
Firstly I need to flag a conflict of interest. With a working history punctuated by most of the digital disruptions and convergence points, I have developed a clear idea of how to exploit the opportunities these create. I have to say that as I read the first few pages of this book I felt an almost evangelical zeal that someone else was describing the water that I occasionally fail to swim through, I was full of hope that they might be able to show us how to at least tread water too.... As a former mentor's words came into my head 'Don't get on the white horse called truth, it will head straight for nearest cliff' I took a deep breath and knuckled down to finish the read in full. I want to share my initial thoughts while they are still fresh, having completed it this morning on my tube journey into the office.
Paul & Larry (I don't know them but lack the time to continually use their full names - apologies to them if they read this, I am simply working to the key parameter of speed of innovation) are, by their own definition somewhere between inventors and designers. They are building on and adapting a large body of work around organisational change and innovation but in my opinion they are the first to make any serious inroads into the gap that exists in today's digitally driven marketplace; the gap I am referring to is around business case and strategy for digital transformation (brought about via disruption). I have been fortunate enough to work for and consult to some very cool and forward thinking companies, each looking to increase revenues and protect margins within an increasingly digital space. On each occasion the most challenging aspect of the transformation has been around overall vision and working practises, specifically;
Strategic - shifting from rigid, established strategies towards experimentation
Emotional - disconnecting management ego from legacy products or services
Cultural - moving towards transparent collaboration with partners & markets
Technical - becoming agile, iterative and ruthless in product development
This book gets to the heart of these required organisational shifts and gives us tools and case studies to build a business case for management wishing to change. As an example, it’s thoughts on Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) and the example of Citi's application of this are right on the mark for larger (global) clients.
Too much work has been done (and is still being done!) on describing the water organisations are drowning in around digital disruption/transformation points. This work is so important because it throws a rope and a instructions on how to swim. I loved it.
on 3 April 2014
A short but interesting book that shows how the tradionial compitives theory michael porter etc may shifted due to speed and flexiblity and inovation.
How products can appear quickly at lower costs and provide better service and making the incubants obselte in very short period times.
The flexibly low inventary and having low fixed over head more quicker cyles more important than every.
The examples given such as sat nav where google made the incumbants alsot obsolte in very short time period.
The idea that have to complete on price or quality no longer case where can be outcomining in both.
Also how even disrupters can have a short period before another comes along, so the exists strathegty can be as important as at peak should already be thinking of down scaling. As low times between first users and laggards. So can saturdate market quickly.
on 21 March 2014
I read this book just after doing an extensive review on literature on disruptive innovation, this mainly consisted of Christensen's theory (the Innovator's Dilemma). This theory really needed an update and that is exactly what Downes and Nunes came up with. However most things of Christensen's theory are still true, disruption nowadays happens at a way higher speed and definitely doesn't only come from the bottom-up. Examples of this and its implications are very well illustrated through-out this book, which used the four phases of Earth's big bang theory to communicate their theory.
Like I said in the title, this is a must-read and I predict this book will be considered a classic in a couple of years. Among my colleagues in my Masters program in innovation it has already sparked a lot of interest in the topic.