Disruptive Innovation and Why You Are Using the Term Incorrectly

Where is the true disruption?

We hear constantly about disruptive innovation and disruptive new markets and disruptive new products… but are they really?

What is disruption? Hint: Its not phone size.

In the Clayton Christensen sense (the guy who created the term), “disruptive innovation is process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses”. As the godfather of disruptive innovation states in his reclamation articlewe have become sloppy in our labeling.

Disruptive innovation is not just about creating a “new” business or product. Its a systemic strategy and evaluation for understanding market and industry movements. Its keeping your eyes open and ears more open to what’s going on around you. Its about being aware of niche markets or technology that may overthrow the massive incumbent.

If you don’t want to read his article or book (though, you should)…

Now that you are caught up on disruption and also officially smarter than your boss – let’s look at NEW technology – that might be considered disruptive innovation.

I chose these because quite frankly, I am bored with Apple, Samsung and Google’s attempt to dampen our imaginations with the last 5+ years of competition over phone size.

Virtual Reality is now Augmented Reality (AR)… but what the hell is this? 

Mixed Reality Lightfield
In the words of Magic Leaps CEO “we’ve achieved mass miniaturization”. What this means is that you won’t have to wear your AR – you’ll be able to project it and interact with it freely. Think the mission control board from the movie Minority Report…Its real.

Now, are they disruptive? 

They might not be, yet… But using Dr. Christensen’s model, the incumbent technology is AR as we know it today via wearables or funny looking helmets. Magic Leap’s technology aims to break free of the wearable shackles and let the user interact with the technology on a more evolutionary and progressive way, heads up.

My interpretation is that if AR/VR was mainstream technology and widely adopted, Magic Leap would be a disruptive innovation in this market. Since the mainstream acceptance is low and the technology demands are still low, the “virtual field” is relatively open, making Magic Leap an awesome and innovative technology company, not necessarily a disruptive innovation, by the model’s definition.

The fact that Magic Leap has accrued over $1B in VC money, should sound some alarms. The technology itself may have surpassed Google and Facebook’s incumbent wearable tech already and perhaps overtaking them in the race to mass market adoption. Time will tell.

“I think, therefore I am”

Speaking of evolutionary change – another innovative company, Emotiv is creating technology that allows our brainwaves to control things without the use of hands/voice. This is not necessarily ground breaking (see this awesome Ted Talk from 8 years ago) but then again maybe its another case of NOT accepting the default of wearable technology requiring us to interact with the device, rather the the device interacting with us. – Rene Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” is more a reality than a philosophy.

What do you think? Is Magic Leap or Emotiv disruptive innovation? How will these technologies change the world? 




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *