Soapbox: Is ‘disruptive innovation’ a theory gone off the tracks?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Thomas.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]Having publicly stood as a huge fan of Clayton Christensen’s theories of disruptive innovation, particularly the ‘broken circle of innovation’ as an explanation of our current economic stagnation (if not ‘stagflation’ which was a hallmark of my early adulthood and yes, now) and disruption in healthcare (even if it hasn’t started yet because it’s been sidetracked), this Editor was prepared to savage, demolish and otherwise lay waste to a New Yorker article by Jill Lepore (a Harvard professor of American History, for Pete’s sake).

Having read and digested the article, I am surprised in largely agreeing with Prof. Lepore. She brings forth certain weaknesses and concerns I had about the entire Weltanschauung of disruptive innovation, first as an overarching theory equivalent to Darwin’s theory of evolution. There is a veritable industry around disruptive innovation which she outlines, reminding me that hype of this type around any theory I find profoundly irritating because theories are just that–to be reality checked early and often, just like voting in the 1930s in Jersey City, New Jersey. Prof. Lepore then points out where fellow Harvard Prof. Christensen didn’t paint the complete picture (e.g. Bucyrus, US Steel) and–to me quite importantly–discounts external events and even aggressive, defensive business strategy (as Ron Hammerle’s Soapbox on sidetracked innovation pointed out). Many of Prof. Christensen’s acolytes ignore history (and business strategy) altogether in a near-religious form of Determinism-by-Innovation.

There is also another circle–a circular logic prevalent in Mr Christensen’s theories summarized aptly by Ms Lepore: (more…)