Innovator's Dilemma

book by Clayton Christensen, subtitled "When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail" ISBN:0060521996

excerpt This is one of the innovator's dilemmas: Blindly following the maxim that good managers should keep close to their customers can sometimes be a fatal mistake... This study of technological change over the history of the disk drive industry revealed two types of technology change, each with very different effects on the industry's leaders. Technologies of the first sort sustained the industry's rate of improvement in product performance (total capacity and recording density were the two most common measures) and ranged in difficulty from incremental to radical. The industry's dominant firms always led in developing and adopting these technologies. By contrast, innovations of the second sort disrupted or redefined performance trajectories--and consistently resulted in the failure of the industry's leading firms... Generally Disruptive Innovations were technologically straightforward, consisting of off-the-shelf components put together in a product architecture that was often simpler than prior approaches. They offered less of what customers in established markets wanted and so could rarely be initially employed there. They offered a different package of attributes valued only in emerging markets remote from, and unimportant to, the mainstream.

(note that technologies seem framed here by how "disruptive" they are to sellers, not customers)

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