Disrupting the theory of disruptive innovation

June 23, 2014

New Yorker contributor and Harvard professor Jill Lepore has written a piece challenging the prevailing wisdom of what she calls the “gospel of innovation.” Lepore challenges the findings of Clayton M Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, calling his “sources often dubious and his logic questionable.” Christensen had argued that established firms often become victims of their own success, in that because they are established leaders in the market they are reluctant to embrace new, potentially disruptive technologies. Lepore says that Christensen’s terms have become the lingua franca of business, politics, and PSE. However, she finds fault in the case studies that Christensen uses to build his argument. She notes that many of his examples of business that failed did not lose out to disruption at all, but often took over the upstarts; she also says that some of his examples of “disruptive” business were actually well-established players in their markets. She challenges Christensen’s characterizations of his findings as laws of nature, instead calling his theory of disruptive innovation “a very poor prophet.” The New Yorker | Businessweek