Seeing What's Next by Clayton M. Christenson

Disruptive technologies come up from below, toppling big business and rewarding the innovator. This was the lesson of Christenson's earlier work, the Innovator's Dilemma, and he and his colleagues expand substantially on it here.

Disruptive technologies start small, usually not competing well with existing technologies on price or performance, but offering extra convenience or some other axis of quality which attracts a new market. For example, 3" hard drives were useless for the desktop PC market (more expensive, less drive space, slower seek times) but they filled an important niche: laptop drives. This market was willing to sacrifice the other axes for small size.

Endless disruptive technologies from the recent past can be named: mp3s vs. CDs, cell phones vs. landlines, or the internet vs. proprietary networks like Compuserve. In every case, established firms fail to recognize the new market (too small, doesn't match their values, contradicts the values of their core customers) until it's too late.

Those looking to innovate may look for undershot customers (not getting enough of something on a certain axis: size, speed, convenience, integration) or overshot customers (getting too much - they could do with less, and would prefer to pay for less).

Although this book and Innovator's Dilemma spend time trying to see how large firms can avoid this fate (summary: make a well-partitioned, small division which can pursue small markets), this seems pointless to me. It's the natural market cycle that a new technology is born from the minds of entrepreneurs, grows into a booming enterprise, and then is eventually eclipsed by the next thing a decade or two down the road.

Rating: 2 of 5
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