TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 March 2006
Opinions are divided as to whether or not it is possible to "predict industry change" but it is certainly possible to maintain a system by which to rigorously monitor developments in relevant industries, measure the nature and extent of probabilities, and then formulate appropriate contingency plans in anticipation of them. (FYI, Peter Schwartz in The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World and Kees van der Heijden in Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation also have much of substantial value to say about that process.) Together with Erik A. Roth and Scott D. Anthony, Clayton M. Christensen offers in this volume further development of core concepts previously discussed in The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution. However, there is a substantial amount of new thinking and an abundance of new material. Although I strongly recommend that the two earlier works be read first, that is not a requirement to derive full benefit from Seeing What's Next.
According to Christensen, "While the two previous books were aimed at managers [in italics] inside firms who wanted to defend again or attack with a disruption, Seeing What's Next is written for those who watch industries from the [in italics] outside, and who must make important decisions based on what they see. It will help executives, analysts, investors, and others who have a stake in a specific industry to evaluate the impact of innovations, the outcomes of competitive battles, and the moves made by individual firms -- and to make smarter business decisions, forecasts, and stock recommendations based on those evaluations. The goal here [in Seeing What's Next] is to dramatically increase the odds of getting things right in the arena where wrong decisions could be devastating."
The authors carefully organize their material as follows:
In Part I, "How to Use Theory to Analyze," they identify the "signals of change" which indicate where the best opportunities are; explain how to size up competitors; how to identify which strategic choices are of greatest importance; and then explain how nonmarket factors influence innovation.
Then in Part II, "Illustrations of Theory-Based Analysis," they apply various TBA tools when examining the future of education, aviation, semiconductors, healthcare, and telecommunications; using the same tools, they also assess strategies for both corporations and countries. Then in the "Conclusions" section, they step back and recap where they have taken their reader, suggest areas for further investigation, and provide some final thoughts. I especially appreciate the Appendix in which the authors provide a summary of the book's key concepts.
All of the most important points made in this book help us to understand both the opportunities and (yes) the perils of disruptive innovation. They include: disruption is a process, NOT an event; disruption is a relative phenomenon in that what is disruptive to one company may be sustaining to another; different, even radical technology does NOT equal disruptive; disruptive innovations are NOT limited to high-tech markets. Re this last point, the authors carefully explain that disruption can occur in any product or service market and can even help to explain competition among national economies. (Please see Chapter Chapter 9, pages 207-223). Another substantial value-added benefit of this book is derived from the generously annotated "Notes" at the end of each chapter. Together, these sections (all by themselves) are worth far more the cost of this book.
Thus, in a single volume, the authors guide and inform decision-makers in all manner of organizations as they embark on the three-part process by which to (1) identify signals of change, (2) evaluate competitive, head-to-head battles between companies loosely classified as "attackers" and "incumbents" (please see the Glossary), (3) formulate appropriate strategic choices that can influence the outcome of competitive battles, and (4) meanwhile establish and then sustain an effective relationship between innovation and nonmarket forces such as government regulation. Christensen, Anthony, and Roth are to be congratulated for what I consider to be a brilliant achievement. Reluctant as I am to predict anything, I feel certain that Seeing What's Next will become a business book "classic."