There’s a lot of talk about “disruptive innovation”. So much so that I took a crack at defining innovation two years ago.

From Clayton Christensen (author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, building on his 1995 article titled Disruptive Technologies that first introduced us to “disruptive innovation”):

First, a quick recap of the idea: “Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Specifically, as incumbents focus on improving their products and services for their most demanding (and usually most profitable) customers, they exceed the needs of some segments and ignore the needs of others. Entrants that prove disruptive begin by successfully targeting those overlooked segments, gaining a foothold by delivering more-suitable functionality–frequently at a lower price. Incumbents, chasing higher profitability in more-demanding segments, tend not to respond vigorously. Entrants then move upmarket, delivering the performance that incumbents’ mainstream customers require, while preserving the advantages that drove their early success. When mainstream customers start adopting the entrants’ offerings in volume, disruption has occurred.

Well worth the read to remind and ground us on what disruptive innovation really is and is not.