August 15th, 2004

Innovator’s Dilemma

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The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen.

Actually, not a new book but I digged out from my closet and re-read it last week for some internal presentations. Highly recommended for someone who is interested in technology trends.

Incidently, in the course of doing research for my presentation, I also come across this article The Myth of Disruptive Technology by John Dvorak (via Orkut’s Disruptive Technologies Community). He made an interesting case about there is no such thing as a “disruptive technology”. But personally, I think he missed the point on three counts:

(1) While Innovator’s Dilemma is about Disruptive Technology, the more important message is about how Good Management can lead to failure. The paradox is what makes it special: that despite the best people you can hire, with the best intent, you might still fail to ‘get it’.

(2) Disruptive technology are not ‘displacement technology’. No technology displace the older technology totally. Email did not displace snail mail, mobile phone did not displace wired phone and electricity did not displace fire. But the former did cause the latter usage to be reduce significantl and that’s disruptive enough.

(3) The arguments that

The microcomputer was never a “less expensive” and “inferior” replacement for minicomputers. It was a more expensive and superior replacement for calculators and slide rules. It was never used “instead of” a minicomputer (or mainframe for that matter) but “in addition to.”

may sound valid but it is all in perspective and relativity. Compared to calculators and slide rules, yes, microcomputer is more expensive and superior. But compared to ‘Minicomputer’, it is definately cheaper and inferior (Strike 1: “cheaper and inferior”). The initial usage and market for microcomputer wasn’t the same as the mini’s (Strike 2: “market isn’t interested in the technology forcing entrants to look for new market”), but the progressed made by micro’s outpace mini’s over the years (Strike 3: “huge technology growth rate”). Today, a micro running Linux would have better performance/dollar over a mini running SGI or Solaris.

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