Posts Tagged ‘histofsci’

The Disruption Myth – Justin Fox – The Atlantic

Monday, October 27th, 2014

The Disruption Myth Term’s evolution from #Kuhn to Foster to Christensen. Does it still apply in the business world?

The Disruption Myth

The idea that businesses are more vulnerable to upstarts than ever is out-of-date—and that’s a big problem.


After several years of research, and a close reading of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (which introduced the concept of the paradigm shift), Foster came up with an explanation. What threatened these well-run market leaders were what he called “technological discontinuities”—moments when the dominant technology in a market abruptly shifted, and the expertise and scale that the companies had built up suddenly didn’t count for much. One example: when electronic cash registers went from 10 percent of the market in 1972 to 90 percent just four years later, NCR, long the leading maker of cash registers, was caught unprepared, resulting in big losses and mass layoffs.

Foster’s 1986 book, Innovation: The Attacker’s Advantage, described this phenomenon, offered tips for surviving it (just being aware of the possibility of a technological shift was the first step), and predicted that there was much more to come as giant waves of innovation in electronics, software, and biotechnology buffeted the economy. “The Age of Discontinuity,” Foster called it, borrowing the line from the management guru Peter Drucker.

The book did well, but the expression didn’t stick. “I will forever rue the day I didn’t call it ‘disruption,’ ” Foster now says. That was left instead to Clayton Christensen, a consultant and an entrepreneur who headed to Harvard Business School for a mid-career doctorate in 1989 and started teaching there three years later. For his