Disruptibe innnovation

Disruptibe innnovation

J PROD INNOV MANAG 2006;23:19–25
r 2006 Product Development & Management Association

Disruptive Innovation: In Need of Better TheoryÃ
Constantinos Markides


hristensen’s (1997) original theory focused on
disruptive technologies. Over time, the same
theory has been used to explain all kinds of
disruptive innovations. This is a mistake. Different
kinds of innovations have different competitive effects
and produce different kinds of markets. They should
be treated as distinct phenomena. This article summarizes what the academic literature has to say about
two specific types of disruptive innovations—namely,
business-model innovations and radical (new-to-theworld) product innovations. It argues that even
though they share many similarities to what Christensen calls disruptive innovations, they are still
different phenomena: they create different kinds of
markets, pose radically different challenges for established firms, and have radically different implications
for managers. It is only when the topic of disruptive
innovation is broken down into these finer categories
that progress can be made.
In a recent survey of the literature, Danneels (2004)
examined the theory behind disruptive technological
innovation and identified a number of issues that
require further and deeper exploration. One of these
issues is the actual definition of disruptive innovation.
It appears that despite the widespread use of the term
by both managers and academics, there is still a rather
unclear understanding of what constitutes disruptive
In its original formulation, Christensen (1997)
focused primarily on technological innovation and
explored how new technologies came to surpass
seemingly superior technologies in a market. Over

time, Christensen widened the application of the term
to include not only technologies but also products and
business models. For example, Christensen and
Raynor (2003) list as disruptive innovations such...