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Are Innovative Technologies Ever Disruptive Technologies?

What is a disruptive technology?

In an opinion piece, Christo Van Cemert, argues that what most people call disruptive technology is not in fact disruptive. He knows because he looked it up in the dictionary.

What he should have done is look it up in Clayton Christensen’s book, “The Innovators Dilemma” to understand the meaning based on the conclusions of his study ---context always helps. If he had looked it up, he might have found that “disruptive innovation” is about how established companies fail because they ignore “garage fantasy” (garage fantasy is Mr. Van Cemert's description) until that fantasy develops enough to disrupt the company by taking its market share (Remember Control Data Corp?)

I would agree that not everything called a disruptive technology is truly a disruptive innovation. But, in spite of what Mr. Cemert thinks, there are several, very powerful disruptive innovations occurring today including 3D Printing, Robotics and Big Data.

After more than a decade reporting on tech, observing trends, and using words properly,  I can reassure you that all these companies and technologies people are so excited about are definitely not disruptive. Yes, this it going be one of those articles that starts off as a grammar lesson and then throws in some history to prove a point. And, if I’m lucky, maybe enough people will stop trying to use disruptive when describing smart, innovative ideas and products.

In some cases, so-called disruptive companies haven’t even disrupted much. They’ve created all-new markets for themselves.

  When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, to the relief of thousands of gas lantern operators, he wasn’t being disruptive.

Huh? Unless the gas lantern customers were printing money, didn't they have to take the money they were spending on gas lanterns and use it to purchase electric appliances?  That might have been a little disruptive to the gas lantern operators.

Another interesting thing is that Mr. Van Cemert is upset because the definition of disruptive has expanded due to new information and this has disrupted his view of things. Well, you can decide for yourself,  you can read his article here.





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