a16z Podcast: Holy Non Sequiturs, Batman! — What Disruption Theory Is … and Isn’t


    Disruption is such an overused buzzword. But the word itself does have meaning: As defined by the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, it is a “disturbance…that interrupts an event, activity, or process” and that causes something “to be unable to continue in the normal way”. It’s also the name for an influential theory about innovation first coined by Clayton Christensen in a 1995 article and later publicized through his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma.

    But that was nearly two decades ago! Not only has the concept been much misunderstood and mangled since then, surely it’s changed given the advent of new tech and business models today? Is it still relevant, given cases that seemingly defy the theory and its application? Are we at risk of overfitting this “verbally inflated” term to everything, and in doing so, are we missing what disruption theory really says — and doesn’t?

    Michael Raynor, co-author of the followup book on disruptive innovation with Christensen — and author of another book that later tested the predictive power of the theory — joins this episode of the a16z Podcast, in conversation with Sonal Chokshi, to answer these questions and more. He also hints at some nuggets from an upcoming article in Harvard Business Review with Christensen and others that addresses the latest formulations of this theory of innovation.

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