Over the past several years, people in business have taken the notion of “disruptive technology” and expanded it dramatically. While the term originally referred to a particular kind of technology evolution driven by a start-up which subsequently led to the failure of established firms, today it is used loosely as a label for change and innovation of all kinds. It’s now commonplace to refer to everything new, changing, or different–regardless of how marginal¬–as disruptive. While some might argue that it’s only a label, the problem is that its indiscriminate use actually hinders thoughtful decision making. 

This recorded presentation argues that disruptive technology is just one of many drivers of industry change and we should recognize its place. We should also recognize other drivers and patterns of industry change and thereby make better decisions. This requires understanding that:
  • The complement of disruptive technology is “sustaining technology” and the latter is more common than the former. 
  • Established companies often succeed by absorbing new technologies organically or by acquisitions. 
  • Many so-called disrupters fail. A look back at the numerous companies labeled ‘disruptive’ will show that most failed and had little impact. 
  • New technologies and new players often succeed by creating and thriving in niches rather than by displacing established firms.

About the Presenter

Dr. Gaurab Bhardwaj is an Associate Professor and the Louis J. Lavigne, Jr. Family Endowed Term Chair in Strategy & Planning at Babson College. Gaurab's research, teaching, speaking, and facilitating expertise are in strategy, innovation, corporate entrepreneurship, and decision making in science-based businesses like biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and other life sciences and health-related businesses.​