MONEY & ENTREPRENEURSHIP
By Dr. V. Sivapalan
Death of the Encyclopedia Salesman
Are Entrepreneurs losing their magic touch in creating the disruptive ideas that were bountiful in the early years of the Internet? Or are we seeing a different sort of disruption, of ideas that don't necessarily disrupt old industries but create new ones that never existed before.
In 1997 Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen described a new technology that ‘unexpectedly displaces an established technology’ and coined the phrase ‘disruptive technologies’. He divides new technology into two categories: sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining technology is based on incremental improvements to an already established technology (for example the ever improving speeds in semiconductor chip technology), whereas disruptive technology appeals to a limited audience (normally the early adopters), lacks refinement, has performance problems because it is new and may not even have proven practical applications (think social networks like Facebook).
The old disruptive ideas were plentiful especially in the 1990s with many of them creating new industries and businesses. Ebay for example created a new way to auction goods online and thereby disrupted the old methods of auctioning goods. Now anyone can auction anything online from anywhere at anytime. I am sure many stodgy auction firms closed down with only the unique, specialist ones still surviving. Amazon was also disruptive and by creating an online bookstore killed many neighborhood bookstores and severely dented the sales and profits of the majors.
One great disruptive idea was Internet search by Yahoo and Google, which even created a new verb in the English language, ‘to Google’ or ‘Google me’ meaning search for information on me on the Internet. Internet search changed the way we look for information. Today you can virtually do away with the Yellow Pages, encyclopedias and even medical books. I am sure even...