The name of this blog — “Pardon the Disruption” — derives from the notion of disruptive technology or disruptive innovations generally. But what exactly is that? Or, more precisely, what does it mean to me?
A disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is a technological innovation, product, or service that eventually overturns the existing dominant technology or product in the market.
Not bad. But here’s how I’d put it: Disruptive innovations change the rules of the game.
To truly cause disruption, an idea or invention must radically alter its environment. Mere improvements, enhancements, additions, or modifications don’t count. We’re talking the Next Big Thing here — or at least something approaching that level.
Let’s look at some good examples:
- Downloadable Music/MP3/iPod. Like the CD before it, downloadable music changed the dynamic in listening to music. The rules were altered. No longer do consumers need to go to a music store or order a physical CD online. And who needs boxes of jewel cases? Music stores are being shuttered, consumers are no longer tethered to bulky portable devices, and the music industry is stuck in a quandary over DRM. That’s disruptive.
- Digital Photography. Forget about the 24 hour photo store and carrying rolls of film on vacation. Digital picture-taking makes photography simpler. And consumers can now take far more pictures than before, increasing the odds of capturing the perfect shot. That’s disruptive.
- Email. When was the last time you wrote a letter to a friend and put it in a stamped envelope? That’s disruptive.
- eBay/Online Auctions. Flea markets, yard sales, classified ads, and even some offline auctions have been radically altered by the new marketplace that has sprung up at eBay and, to a lesser extent, other online auction sites. That’s disruptive.
- Automobiles. If you thought disruptive innovation was a new phenomenon, you’d be wrong. Ridden in a horse-drawn carriage recently? Not likely, unless you were taking a nostalgic ride through Central Park in New York. That’s disruptive.
In a separate post, I’ll touch on what this means for the PR and marketing industry.