has been involved in innovative technology for
three decades. Often innovation means disruption of a pattern that has
long been in place, and so is not desirous of change,
even though that change may bring a better outcome over the long haul.
As we move into the next millenium, we have continued to seek out
stellar disruptive technologies that change the paradigm of life as
we know it, and seek a harmonious placing, with all that this entails.
How Can Stellar Technology be Disruptive?
New technologies emerge in a far shorter time span than ever before in
the history of mankind. While many of these technologies are incremental
improvements over what is already available, others completely break
from the pattern and redefine entire industries, change our mode of
thinking about something, or just introduce new concepts to our
In his 1997 best-selling book, "The Innovator's Dilemma," Harvard
Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen segregates new
technology into two categories: sustaining and disruptive. While
sustaining technology relies on incremental improvements to an already
established technology, Disruptive Technologies are new, and
unexpectedly displace established technology.
By its very nature,
a Disruptive Technology initially lack refinement, has early
performance problems because it is new, but improves exponentially as
time goes on as the initial innovators plug away at it, appeals to
a rather limited audience and consumer group at first, and then as the
technology matures the base grows with sophistication. Early on in
the life cycle of the innovation it may be hard to gain peer support of
the Disruptive Technology or a proven practical application or follow-up
innovation, but the barrier disappears in time as the technology gains
While "marketability" of new technologies depends on a number of
factors, Disruptive Technologies have a larger role to play in our
life. For instance, a Disruptive Technology like the Internet or the
"World-Wide-Web" introduced a whole new way of linking information
assets together and generating commerce through global advertising
schemes; gradual improvements of the first prototypes of the "Web"
led to much increased public usage as we know it today.
outgrowth technologies like the basic "Search Engine" came about in
response to a need to find information in the growing environment. And
it isn't reallyYahoo or Google that started the wave. It was a search
algorithm called Archie, and the Gopher-enabled Veronica and Jughead,
which were the precursors to what we see now as "search engines". And
there are newer more dynamic engines which represent the next
generation of Disruptive Technologies; such as COGNISET from
Mnemotrix Systems, Inc., and application processing environments such as
SMOOTHSLICE that take up the new dimensions needed by select and
Existing businesses are often reluctant to take advantage of Disruptive
Technologies, since it would involve competing with their existing
Nonetheless, Disruptive Technologies enable us to think in dimensions we
didn't think of, and in that lies their utility and power. These help
us expand our knowledge base as a society and as individuals and solve
problems we didn't quite know as problems. The trouble is, it's
difficult to segregate a Disruptive technology from chaos that surrounds
research, from all the hyperbole that accompanies every new product or
technology launch announcement. There is no mantra that can enable you
to distinguish between a Disruptive Technology that can alter the
landscape and marketing fluff most organizations indulge in. The only
true test is time, the only testbed the entire mass of users on the
Internet. And yet, we hardly have any other alternative to technology
solving so many of our challenges today. There could be millions of
other examples where Disruptive Technologies are not only desirable, but
also the only answer.
Conquering the Perception of Threat
Disruptive Technologies are particularly threatening to the leaders of
an existing market, because they are competition coming from an
unexpected direction. A disruptive technology can come to dominate an
existing market by either filling a role in a new market that the older
technology could not fill or by successively moving up-market through
performance improvements until finally displacing the market incumbents
to delimit a new long tail.
Disruptive Technologies emerge from the chaos that surrounds us and the
best thing we can do is to create an environment which stimulates
these technologies to come to the fore. We, including our leaders in
business and society at large, have to be tolerant of chaos and build
strategic capability to solve problems of the future rather than
concentrating on today: an innovation that creates a new market by
allowing customers to solve a problem in a radically new way. An
innovation that improves a product in an existing market in ways that
customers are expecting.
Disruptive Technologies result in innovations that improve a product or
service in ways that the market does not expect, typically by being
lower priced or designed for a different set of consumers.
We owe it to ourselves, and to our future generations, to let Disruptive
Technologies gain acceptance. There may be little we can do as
individuals, besides being patient with technologists and researchers as
they create the next big thing, but collectively, we can create an
environment that lets disruption become the norm.
We should move into the future with the confidence that the next
"disruption" - whatever that is, whenever it comes on, wherever it
happens will be beneficial in some way and courageously look forward to
evolutionary change that will follow.