What is Industry Disruption?

Disruption. This buzzword has been thrown around the last few years. Depending on which industry you’re in, it can either make you feel giddy or terrified. But what exactly does disruption mean?

Disruption blocks

Contrary to popular belief, industry disruption really isn’t about shaking up an old industry so much as it is about creating completely new ones. That might seem like an overstatement but think about it for a minute. Uber’s success wasn’t based on changing how taxi companies did business. Uber is successful because it created a completely new approach to transportation.

So how does disruption happen in the first place?

In a nutshell, disruption occurs because big organizations are optimized to sustain existing technologies — not create new ones. They iterate on what they already know how to do well, instead of innovating new solutions.

Clayton Christenson said it best in The Innovator’s Dilemma:

“It is not unusual for a big corporation to dismiss the value of a disruptive technology because it does not reinforce current company goals... only to be blindsided as the technology matures”.

It’s easy to see how this could happen too since disruptive technologies and ideas usually have four unexpected hallmarks. They:

  1. Lack refinement
  2. Appeal to a limited audience
  3. Have performance problems
  4. Don’t have a proven application…yet

But while large corporations might view these characteristics as weaknesses, the revenue potential is huge. Across most industries, disruptors are outperforming long-established players at an average of 9x.

Consider what’s happening at Netflix, Uber, and AirBnB: These industry disruptors are growing at paces that are far faster than their traditional counterparts. (In at least one case, we’re talking 17.5 times the pace for year over year sales growth.

Clearly, the future belongs to disruptors, but what does disruption actually look like? What are the processes that drive these exceptional sea changes in entire industries? To learn more, read our next article, What Does Disruption Look Like or skip ahead and check out our 7 Steps to Disruption post.

Want to learn more?  Download our in-depth Guide to Disruption. 

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Written by Arik Abel

Arik Abel is the product marketing manager for Lenovo Unified Workspace. In this role he collaborates frequently with customers, industry analysts, sales and product management to help create a vision for how organizations will benefit from the Unified Workspace solution. Arik’s background includes marketing leadership roles in startups, technology, consumer brands and agencies.

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