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Disruptive innovation

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Title: Disruptive innovation  
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Subject: Garret John LoPorto, Innovation, Technology assessment, The Innovator's Dilemma, Disruption
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Disruptive innovation

Types of Innovation[1]
An innovation that does not affect existing markets.
An innovation that improves a product in an existing market in ways that customers are expecting. (e.g., fuel injection)
Revolutionary (discontinuous, radical)
An innovation that is unexpected, but nevertheless does not affect existing markets. (e.g., the automobile)
An innovation that creates a new market by applying a different set of values, which ultimately (and unexpectedly) overtakes an existing market. (e.g., the lower priced Ford Model T)

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.

In contrast to disruptive innovation, a sustaining innovation does not create new markets or value networks but rather only evolves existing ones with better value, allowing the firms within to compete against each other's sustaining improvements. Sustaining innovations may be either "discontinuous"[1] (i.e. "transformational" or "revolutionary") or "continuous" (i.e. "evolutionary").

The term "disruptive technology" has been widely used as a synonym of "disruptive innovation", but the latter is now preferred, because market disruption has been found to be a function usually not of technology itself but rather of its changing application. Sustaining innovations are typically innovations in technology, whereas disruptive innovations change entire markets. For example, the automobile was a revolutionary technological innovation, but it was not a disruptive innovation, because early automobiles were expensive luxury items that did not disrupt the market for horse-drawn vehicles. The market for transportation essentially remained intact until the debut of the lower priced Ford Model T in 1908.[2] The mass-produced automobile was a disruptive innovation, because it changed the transportation market. The automobile, by itself, was not.

The current theoretical understanding of disruptive innovation is different from what might be expected by default, an idea that Clayton M. Christensen called the "technology mudslide hypothesis". This is the simplistic idea that an established firm fails because it does not "keep up technologically" with other firms. In this hypothesis, firms are like climbers scrambling upward on crumbling footing, where it takes constant upward-climbing effort just to stay still, and any break from the effort (such as complacency born of profitability) causes a rapid downhill slide. Christensen and colleagues have shown that this simplistic hypothesis is wrong; it does not model reality. What they have shown is that good firms are usually aware of the innovations, but their business environment does not allow them to pursue them when they first arise, because they are not profitable enough at first and because their development can take scarce resources away from that of sustaining innovations (which are needed to compete against current competition). In Christensen's terms, a firm's existing value networks place insufficient value on the disruptive innovation to allow its pursuit by that firm. Meanwhile, start-up firms inhabit different value networks, at least until the day that their disruptive innovation is able to invade the older value network. At that time, the established firm in that network can at best only fend off the market share attack with a me-too entry, for which survival (not thriving) is the only reward.[3]

The work of Christensen and others during the 2000s has addressed the question of what firms can do to avoid displacement brought on by technological disruption.


  • History and usage of the term 1
  • The theory 2
  • Disruptive technology 3
  • High-technology effects 4
  • Practical example of disruption 5
  • Examples of disruptive innovations 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

History and usage of the term

The term disruptive technologies was coined by Clayton M. Christensen and introduced in his 1995 article Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave,[4] which he co-wrote with Joseph Bower. The article is aimed at managing executives who make the funding/purchasing decisions in companies rather than the research community. He describes the term further in his book The Innovator's Dilemma.[5] Innovator's Dilemma explored the cases of the disk drive industry (which, with its rapid generational change, is to the study of business what fruit flies are to the study of genetics, as Christensen was advised in the 1990s[6]) and the excavating equipment industry (where hydraulic actuation slowly displaced cable-actuated movement). In his sequel with Michael E Raynor, The Innovator's Solution,[7] Christensen replaced the term disruptive technology with disruptive innovation because he recognized that few technologies are intrinsically disruptive or sustaining in character; rather, it is the business model that the technology enables that creates the disruptive impact. However, Christensen's evolution from a technological focus to a business modelling focus is central to understanding the evolution of business at the market or industry level. Christensen and Mark W. Johnson, who co-founded the management consulting firm Innosight, described the dynamics of "business model innovation" in the 2008 Harvard Business Review article "Reinventing Your Business Model".[8] The concept of disruptive technology continues a long tradition of the identification of radical technical change in the study of innovation by economists, and the development of tools for its management at a firm or policy level.

In the late 1990s, the automotive sector began to embrace a perspective of "constructive disruptive technology" by working with a consultant David E. O’Ryan, whereby the use of current off-the-shelf technology was integrated with newer innovation to create what he called "an unfair advantage". The process or technology change as a whole had to be "constructive" in improving the current method of manufacturing, yet disruptively impact the whole of the business case model, resulting in a significant reduction of waste, energy, materials, labor or legacy costs to the user.

In keeping with the insight that what matters economically is the business model, not the technological sophistication itself, Christensen's theory explains why many disruptive innovations are not "advanced technologies", which the technology mudslide hypothesis would lead one to expect. Rather, they are often novel combinations of existing off-the-shelf components, applied cleverly to a small, fledgling value network.

The theory

Christensen defines a disruptive innovation as a product or service designed for a new set of customers.

"Generally, disruptive innovations were technologically straightforward, consisting of off-the-shelf components put together in a product architecture that was often simpler than prior approaches. They offered less of what customers in established markets wanted and so could rarely be initially employed there. They offered a different package of attributes valued only in emerging markets remote from, and unimportant to, the mainstream."[9]

Christensen argues that disruptive innovations can hurt successful, well managed companies that are responsive to their customers and have excellent research and development. These companies tend to ignore the markets most susceptible to disruptive innovations, because the markets have very tight profit margins and are too small to provide a good growth rate to an established (sizable) firm.[10] Thus, disruptive technology provides an example of when the common business-world advice to "focus on the customer" ("stay close to the customer," "listen to the customer") can sometimes be strategically counterproductive.

While Christensen argued that disruptive innovations can hurt successful, well managed companies, O’Ryan countered that “constructive” integration of existing, new, and forward thinking innovation could improve the economic benefits of these same well managed companies, once decision making management understood the systemic benefits as a whole.

How low-end disruption occurs over time.

Christensen distinguishes between "low-end disruption" which targets customers who do not need the full performance valued by customers at the high end of the market and "new-market disruption" which targets customers who have needs that were previously unserved by existing incumbents.[11]

"Low-end disruption" occurs when the rate at which products improve exceeds the rate at which customers can adopt the new performance. Therefore, at some point the performance of the product overshoots the needs of certain customer segments. At this point, a disruptive technology may enter the market and provide a product which has lower performance than the incumbent but which exceeds the requirements of certain segments, thereby gaining a foothold in the market.

In low-end disruption, the disruptor is focused initially on serving the least profitable customer, who is happy with a good enough product. This type of customer is not willing to pay premium for enhancements in product functionality. Once the disruptor has gained a foothold in this customer segment, it seeks to improve its profit margin. To get higher profit margins, the disruptor needs to enter the segment where the customer is willing to pay a little more for higher quality. To ensure this quality in its product, the disruptor needs to innovate. The incumbent will not do much to retain its share in a not so profitable segment, and will move up-market and focus on its more attractive customers. After a number of such encounters, the incumbent is squeezed into smaller markets than it was previously serving. And then finally the disruptive technology meets the demands of the most profitable segment and drives the established company out of the market.

"New market disruption" occurs when a product fits a new or emerging market segment that is not being served by existing incumbents in the industry.

The extrapolation of the theory to all aspects of life has been challenged,[12] as has the methodology of relying on selected case studies as the principal form of evidence.[12] Jill Lepore points out that some companies identified by the theory as victims of disruption a decade or more ago, rather than being defunct, remain dominant in their industries today (including Seagate Technology, U.S. Steel, and Bucyrus).[12] Lepore questions whether the theory has been oversold and misapplied, as if it were able to explain everything in every sphere of life, including not just business but education and public institutions.[12]

Disruptive technology

In 2009, Milan Zeleny described the high technology as disruptive technology and raised the question what is being disrupted during this process. The answer, according to Zeleny, is the support network of high technology.[13] For example, introducing electric cars disrupts the support network for gasoline cars (network of gas and service stations). Such disruption is fully expected and therefore effectively resisted by support net owners. In the long run, high (disruptive) technology either bypasses, upgrades or replaces the outdated support network.

Technology, being a form of social relationship, always evolves. No technology remains fixed. Technology starts, develops, persists, mutates, stagnates and declines – just like living

  • Peer-reviewed chapter on Disruptive Innovation by Clayton Christensen with public commentaries by notable designers like Donald Norman
  • The Myth of Disruptive Technologies. Note that Dvorák's definition of disruptive technology describes the low cost disruption model, above. He reveals the overuse of the term and shows how many disruptive technologies are not truly disruptive.
  • "The Disruptive Potential of Game Technologies: Lessons Learned from its Impact on the Military Simulation Industry", by Roger Smith in Research Technology Management (September/October 2006)
  • Disruptive Innovation Theory
  • Bibliography of Christensen’s "Theory of Disruptive Innovation" as it relates to higher education
  • Disruptive Technology Portfolio by InformationWeek and Credit Suisse
  • Diffusion of Innovations, Strategy and Innovations The D.S.I Framework by Francisco Rodrigues Gomes, share research
  • CREATING THE FUTURE: Building Tomorrow’s World

External links

  • Danneels, Erwin (2004). "Disruptive Technology Reconsidered: A Critique and Research Agenda".  
  • Danneels, Erwin (2006). "From the Guest Editor: Dialogue on The Effects of Disruptive Technology on Firms and Industries". Journal of Product Innovation Management 23 (1): 2–4.  

Further reading

  • Anthony, Scott D.; Johnson, Mark W.; Sinfield, Joseph V.; Altman, Elizabeth J. (2008). Innovator's Guide to Growth - Putting Disruptive Innovation to Work. Harvard Business School Press.  
  • Spring 2002MIT Sloan Management ReviewHow to Identify and Build Disruptive New Businesses,
  •   ()
  • Christensen, Clayton M. & Overdorf, Michael. (2000). "Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change" Harvard Business Review, March–April 2000.
  • Christensen, Clayton M., Bohmer, Richard, & Kenagy, John. (2000). "Will Disruptive Innovations Cure Health Care?" Harvard Business Review, September 2000.
  • Christensen, Clayton M. (2003). The innovator's solution : creating and sustaining successful growth. Harvard Business Press.  
  • Christensen, Clayton M.; Anthony, Scott D.; Roth, Erik A. (2004). Seeing What's Next. Harvard Business School Press.  
  • Christensen, Clayton M., Baumann, Heiner, Ruggles, Rudy, & Sadtler, Thomas M. (2006). "Disruptive Innovation for Social Change" Harvard Business Review, December 2006.
  • Mountain, Darryl R., Could New Technologies Cause Great Law Firms to Fail?
  • Mountain, Darryl R. (2006). Disrupting conventional law firm business models using document assembly, International Journal of Law and Information Technology 2006; doi:10.1093/ijlit/eal019
  • Tushman, M.L. & Anderson, P. (1986). Technological Discontinuities and Organizational Environments. Administrative Science Quarterly 31: 439-465.
  • Eric Chaniot (2007). "The Red Pill of Technology Innovation" Red Pill, October 2007.


  1. ^ a b c Christensen 1997, p. xviii. Christensen describes as "revolutionary" innovations as "discontinuous" "sustaining innovations".
  2. ^ Christensen 2003, p. 49.
  3. ^ Christensen 1997, p. 47.
  4. ^ Bower, Joseph L. & Christensen, Clayton M. (1995). However the concept of new technologies leading to wholesale economic change is not a new idea since Joseph Schumpeter adapted the idea of creative destruction from Karl Marx. Schumpeter (1949) in one of his examples used "the railroadization of the Middle West as it was initiated by the Illinois Central". He wrote, "The Illinois Central not only meant very good business whilst it was built and whilst new cities were built around it and land was cultivated, but it spelled the death sentence for the [old] agriculture of the West."["Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave" Harvard Business Review, January–February 1995
  5. ^ a b Christensen 1997.
  6. ^ Christensen 1997, p. 3.
  7. ^ Christensen 2003.
  8. ^ Johnson, Mark, Christensen, Clayton, et al, 2008, "Reinventing Your Business Model, Harvard Business Review, December 2008.
  9. ^ a b c Christensen 1997, p. 15.
  10. ^ Christensen 1997, p. i-iii.
  11. ^ Christensen 2003, p. 23-45.
  12. ^ a b c d Lepore, Jill (2014-06-23), "Annals of enterprise: The disruption machine: What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.",  
  13. ^ Zeleny, Milan. "High Technology and Barriers to Innovation: From Globalization to Localization". International Journal of Information Technology & Decision Making (World Scientific) 11: P 441. 
  14. ^ Oliver, Gassmann (May 2006). "Opening up the innovation process: towards an agenda". R&D Management 36 (03): P 223–366.  
  15. ^ Christensen, Clayton (January 1995). "Disruptive Technologies Catching the Wave". Harvard Business Review: P 3. 
  16. ^ "HBS Faculty & Research". 
  17. ^ Bower, Joseph (May 2002). "Disruptive Change". Harvard Business Review 80 (05): P 95–101. 
  18. ^ Zeleny, Milan (January 2009). "Technology and High Technology: Support Net and Barriers to Innovation". Advanced Management Systems 01 (01): P 8–21. 
  19. ^ Zeleny, Milan (September 2009). "Technology and High Technology: Support Net and Barriers to Innovation". Acta Mechanica Slovaca 36 (01): P 6–19. 
  20. ^ Masaaki, Kotabe; Scott Swan (January 2007). "The role of strategic alliances in high-technology new product development". Strategic Management Journal 16 (08).  
  21. ^ Manyika, James (May 2013). "Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy". McKinsey Global Institute. 
  22. ^ Zeleny, Milan (2006). "Knowledge-information autopoietic cycle: towards the wisdom systems". International Journal of Management and Decision Making 7 (1): P 3–18.  
  23. ^ Brown, Brad (March 2014). "Views from the front lines of the data-analytics revolution". McKinsey Quarterly. 
  24. ^ Bosman, Julie (13 March 2012). "After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  25. ^ Tartakoff, Joseph. "Victim Of WorldHeritage: Microsoft To Shut Down Encarta". paidContent. Retrieved 1 April 2012. 
  26. ^ Sandström, Christian G. (2010). "A revised perspective on Disruptive Innovation – Exploring Value, Networks and Business models (Theisis submitted to Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden)". Retrieved 2010-11-22. 
  27. ^ a b Christensen 1997, p. 3-28.
  28. ^ Christensen 1997, pp. 61–76.
  29. ^ Christensen 2003, pp. 37–39.
  30. ^ Christensen 2003, p. 64.
  31. ^ Knopper, Steve (2009). Appetite for self-destruction : the spectacular crash of the record industry in the digital age. New York: Free Press.  
  32. ^ "Concorde grounded for good". BBC News, 10 April 2003. 10 April 2003. Retrieved 4 May 2012. 


See also

Category Disruptive Innovation Market Disrupted by Innovation Notes
Academia WorldHeritage Traditional encyclopedias Traditionally edited general encyclopedias have been displaced by WorldHeritage, the free, non-profit, community-edited online encyclopedia. Former market leader Encyclopædia Britannica ended print production after 244 years in 2012.[24] Britannica's price of over $1000, its physical size of dozens of volumes, its weight of over 100 pounds, and its update cycles lasting a year or longer were all annulled by WorldHeritage. Microsoft's Encarta, a 1993 entry into professionally edited digital encyclopedias, was once a major rival to Britannica but was discontinued in 2009.[25] WorldHeritage's lack of price, unlimited size and instant updates are the primary challenges for profitable competition in the consumer market.
Communication Email Postal mail E-mail has replaced postal mail because it can send messages over vast geographical distances in mere milliseconds without wasting paper or requiring the spending of money for postage stamps.
Telephones Telegraphy When Western Union infamously declined to purchase Alexander Graham Bell's telephone patents for $100,000, their highest-profit market was long-distance telegraphy. Telephones were only useful for very local calls. Short-distance telegraphy barely existed as a market segment, which explains Western Union's decision.
Computing hardware Minicomputers Mainframes Minicomputers were originally presented as an inexpensive alternative to mainframes and mainframe manufacturers did not consider them a serious threat in their market. Eventually, the market for minicomputers became much larger than the market for mainframes.
Personal computers Minicomputers, Workstations. Word processors, Lisp machines
Pocket calculator 3.5 Standard Calculator[1] Equivalent computing performance and portable[5]
Digital calculator Mechanical calculator Facit AB used to dominate the European market for calculators, but did not adapt digital technology, and failed to compete with digital competitors.[26]
Smartphones Personal computers Smartphones and tablets are more portable than traditional PC's.
Data storage 8 inch floppy disk drive 14 inch hard disk drive The floppy disk drive market has had unusually large changes in market share over the past fifty years. According to Clayton M. Christensen's research, the cause of this instability was a repeating pattern of disruptive innovations.[27] For example, in 1981, the old 8 inch drives (used in mini computers) were "vastly superior" to the new 5.25 inch drives (used in desktop computers).[9] However, 8 inch drives were not affordable for the new desktop machines. The simple 5.25 inch drive, assembled from technologically inferior "off-the-shelf" components,[9] was an "innovation" only in the sense that it was new. However, as this market grew and the drives improved, the companies that manufactured them eventually triumphed while many of the existing manufacturers of eight inch drives fell behind.[27]
5.25 inch floppy disk drive 8 inch floppy disk drive
3.5 inch floppy disk drive 5.25 inch floppy disk drive
CDs and USB flash drives Bernoulli drive and Zip drive
Display Light-emitting diodes Light bulbs A LED is significantly smaller and less power-consuming than a light bulb. The first optical LEDs were weak, and only useful as indicator lights. Later models could be used for indoor lighting, and now several cities are switching to LED street lights. Incandescent light bulbs are being phased out in many countries. LED displays and AMOLED are also becoming competitive with LCDs.
LCD CRT The first liquid crystal displays (LCD) were monochromatic and had low resolution. They were used in watches and other handheld devices, but during the early 2000s these (and other planar technologies) largely replaced the dominant cathode ray tube (CRT) technology for computer displays and television sets, although CRT technologies have improved with advances like true-flat panels and digital controls only recently.
Manufacturing Hydraulic excavators Cable-operated excavators Hydraulic excavators were clearly innovative at the time of introduction but they gained widespread use only decades after. However, cable-operated excavators are still used in some cases, mainly for large excavations.[28]
Mini steel mills Vertically integrated steel mills By using mostly locally available scrap and power sources these mills can be cost effective even though not large.[29]
Plastic Metal, wood, glass etc. Bakelite and other early plastics had very limited use - their main advantages were electric insulation and low cost. New forms had advantages such as transparency, elasticity and combustibility. In the early 21st century, plastics can be used for nearly all household items previously made of metal, wood and glass.
Medical Ultrasound Radiography (X-ray imaging) Ultrasound technology is disruptive relative to X-ray imaging. Ultrasound was a new-market disruption. None of the X-ray companies participated in ultrasound until they acquired major ultrasound equipment companies.[30]
Music Digital synthesizer piano Synthesizers were initially low-cost, low-weight alternatives to electronic organs and acoustic pianos. Today's synthesizers feature many automated functions and have replaced them for home and hobby users.
Downloadable Digital media CDs, DVDs In the 1990s, the music industry phased out the single, leaving consumers with no means to purchase individual songs. This market was initially filled by illegal peer-to-peer file sharing technologies, and then by online retailers such as the iTunes Store and This low end disruption eventually undermined the sales of physical, high-cost CDs.[31]
Photography Digital photography Chemical photography Early digital cameras suffered from low picture quality and resolution and long shutter lag. Quality and resolution are no longer major issues and shutter lag is much less than it used to be. The convenience of small memory cards and portable hard drives that hold hundreds or thousands of pictures, as well as the lack of the need to develop these pictures, also helped. Digital cameras have a high power consumption (but several lightweight battery packs can provide enough power for thousands of pictures). Cameras for classic photography are stand-alone devices. In the same manner, high-resolution digital video recording has replaced film stock, except for high-budget motion pictures and fine art.
High speed CMOS video sensors Photographic film When first introduced, high speed CMOS sensors were less sensitive, had lower resolution, and cameras based on them had less duration (record time). The advantage of rapid setup time, editing in the camera, and nearly-instantaneous review quickly eliminated 16 mm high speed film systems. CMOS-based cameras also require less power (single phase 110 V AC and a few amps for CMOS, vs. 240 V single- or three-phase at 20-50 A for film cameras). Continuing advances have overtaken 35 mm film and are challenging 70 mm film applications.
Publishing Computer printers Offset printing Offset printing has a high overhead cost, but very low unit cost compared to computer printers, and superior quality. But as printers, especially laser printers, have improved in speed and quality, they have become increasingly useful for creating documents in limited issues.
Desktop publishing Traditional publishing Early desktop-publishing systems could not match high-end professional systems in either features or quality. Nevertheless, they lowered the cost of entry to the publishing business, and economies of scale eventually enabled them to match, and then surpass, the functionality of the older dedicated publishing systems.
Word Processing Desktop publishing Desktop Publishing (so-called), in targeting desktops and thence personnel publishing has been replaced with word processors that have a wealth of functionality to allow stylistic expression in presentation of work.
Transportation Steamboats Sailing ships The first steamships were deployed on inland waters where sailing ships were less effective, instead of on the higher profit margin seagoing routes. Hence steamships originally only competed in traditional shipping lines' "worst" markets.
Automobiles Rail transport At the beginning of the 20th century, rail (including streetcars) was the fastest and most cost-efficient means of land transportation for goods and passengers in industrialized countries. The first cars, buses and trucks were used for local transportation in suburban areas, where they often replaced streetcars and industrial tracks. As highways expanded, medium- and later long-distance transports were relocated to road traffic, and some railways closed down. As rail traffic has a lower ton-kilometer cost, but a higher investment and operating cost than road traffic, rail is still preferred for large-scale bulk cargo (such as minerals).
Private jet Supersonic transport The Concorde aircraft has so far been the only supersonic airliner in extensive commercial traffic. However, it catered to a small customer segment, which could later afford small private sub-sonic jets. The loss of speed was compensated by flexibility and a more direct routing (i.e. no need to go through a hub). Supersonic flight is also banned above inhabited land, due to sonic booms. Concorde service ended in 2003.[32]

Examples of disruptive innovations

In practical world, the popularization of personal computers illustrates how the knowledge contributes to the ongoing technology innovation. The original centralized concept (one computer, many persons) is a knowledge-defying idea of the computing prehistory and its inadequacies and failures have become clearly apparent. The era of personal computing brought powerful computers “on every desk” (one person, one computer). This short and transitional period was necessary for getting used to the new computing environment, but was inadequate from the knowledge-producing vantage point. Adequate knowledge creation and management come mainly from networking and distributed computing: one person, many computers. Each person’s computer must form an access to the entire computing landscape or ecology through the Internet of other computers, databases, mainframes, as well as production, distribution and retailing facilities, etc. For the first time our technology empowers individuals rather than external hierarchies. It transfers influence and power where it optimally belongs: at the loci of the useful knowledge. Even though hierarchies and bureaucracies do not innovate, free and empowered individuals do; knowledge, innovation, spontaneity and self-reliance are becoming increasingly valued and promoted.[23]

Practical example of disruption

As knowledge surpasses capital, labor and raw materials as the dominant economic resource, technologies are also starting to reflect this shift. Technologies are rapidly shifting from centralized hierarchies to distributed networks. Nowadays knowledge is not residing in a super-mind, super-book or super-database, but a complex relational pattern of networks brought forth to coordinate human action.

However, not all modern technologies are high technologies. They have to be used as high technologies, function as such, and be embedded in their requisite TSNs. They have to empower the individual because only through the individual can they empower knowledge. Not all information technologies have integrative effects. Some information systems are still designed to improve the traditional hierarchy of command and thus preserve and entrench the existing TSN. The administrative model of management, for instance, further aggravates division of task and labor, further specializes knowledge, and separates management from workers and concentrates information and knowledge in centers.

" The effects of high technology always breaks the direct comparability by changing the system itself, therefore requiring new measures and new assessments of its productivity. High technology cannot be compared and evaluated with the existing technology purely on the basis of cost, net present value or return on investment. Only within an unchanging and relatively stable TSN would such direct financial comparability be meaningful. For example, you can directly compare a manual typewriter with an electric typewriter, but not a typewriter with a word processor. Therein lays the management challenge of high technology. "[22]

As for the difference between high technology and low technology, Milan Zeleny once said:

Based on the framework, modern information and knowledge-based technologies currently tend to be high technologies with high-technology effects. They integrate task, labor and knowledge, transcend classical separation of mental and manual work, enhance systems aspects, and promote self-reliance, self-service, innovation and creativity.[21] In comparison, the “low” technologies, no matter how new, complex or advanced, are those which still require the dividing and splintering of task, labor and knowledge, increase specialization, promote division and dependency, sustain intermediaries and diminish initiative.

This kind of technology core is different from regular technology core, which preserves the qualitative nature of flows and the structure of the support and only allows users to perform the same tasks in the same way, but faster, more reliably, in larger quantities, or more efficiently. It is also different from appropriate technology core, which preserves the TSN itself with the purpose of technology implementation and allows users to do the same thing in the same way at comparable levels of efficiency, instead of improving the efficiency of performance.[20]

technology support net. High technology therefore transforms the qualitative nature of tasks of TSN and their relations, as well as their requisite physical, energy and information flows. It also affects the skills required, the roles played, the styles of management and coordination – the organizational culture itself.

High-technology effects

"Implementing high technology is often resisted. This resistance is well understood on the part of active participants in the requisite TSN. The electric car will be resisted by gas-station operators in the same way automated teller machines (ATMs) were resisted by bank tellers and automobiles by horsewhip makers. Technology does not qualitatively restructure the TSN and therefore will not be resisted and never has been resisted. Middle management resists business process reengineering because BPR represents a direct assault on the support net (coordinative hierarchy) they thrive on. Teamwork and multi-functionality is resisted by those whose TSN provides the comfort of narrow specialization and command-driven work."[19]

Milan Zeleny described the above phenomenon.[18] He also wrote that:

The automobile was high technology with respect to the horse carriage; however, it evolved into technology and finally into appropriate technology with a stable, unchanging TSN. Main high-technology advance in the offing is some form of electric car – whether the energy source is the sun, hydrogen, water, air pressure or traditional charging outlet. Electric cars preceded the gasoline automobile by many decades and now it returns to people's life to replace the traditional gasoline automobile.

"When the technology that has the potential for revolutionizing an industry emerges, established companies typically see it as unattractive: it’s not something their mainstream customers want, and its projected profit margins aren’t sufficient to cover big-company cost structure. As a result, the new technology tends to get ignored in favor of what’s currently popular with the best customers. But then another company steps in to bring the innovation to a new market. Once the disruptive technology becomes established there, smaller-scale innovation rapidly raise the technology’s performance on attributes that mainstream customers’ value."[17]

Joseph Bower[16] explained the process of how disruptive technology, through its requisite support net, dramatically transforms a certain industry.

"The technological changes that damage established companies are usually not radically new or difficult from a technological point of view. They do, however, have two important characteristics: First, they typically present a different package of performance attributes—ones that, at least at the outset, are not valued by existing customers. Second, the performance attributes that existing customers do value improve at such a rapid rate that the new technology can later invade those established markets."[15]

Regarding this evolving process of technology, Christensen said:

which are thus forced to co-evolve with it. New versions of the core are being designed and fitted into an increasingly appropriate TSN, with smaller and smaller high-technology effects. High technology becomes just regular technology, with more efficient versions fitting the same support net. Finally, even the efficiency gains diminish, emphasis shifts to product tertiary attributes (appearance, style) and technology becomes TSN-preserving appropriate technology. This technological equilibrium state becomes established and fixated, resisting being interrupted by a technological mutation – new high technology appears and the cycle is repeated. Technology Support Nets The evolutionary life-cycle occurs in the use and development of any technology. A new high technology core emerges and challenges existing [14]

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