Disruptive technology has a bit of a buzzword reputation. On the other hand, the Christensen book is always on people’s lists as a good book. So I bought it and checked it out.
As it turns out, most people seem to be either wrong or only partly right when they define disruptive tech. There’s big gaps missing in the Wikipedia entry , Dvorak gets it wrong , and even Cringely (surprise surprise) misses the boat .
Based on my new understanding straight from the book, I drew up this infographic / visual explanation (click for hig-rez PDF). I decided to zoom in on camera phones, since they are clearly a disruptive tech and show signs of blowing away the digital camera business the next year or two.
The graph is basically three-dimensional. The vertical axis is megapixels. The horizontal axis is the progress of time. And the third dimension (represented here with colour) is the market.
The point is that disruptive technologies initially enter into a new market that has different values. With camera phones, the highest value is that it’s always at hand, wherever you go.
The disruption occurs when the new technology suddenly meets the needs of the old market as well. Then it suddenly (and seemingly “out of nowhere”) takes over completely.