Disruptors set to Maximum….

Digital Disruption, Part 2

(for the non Star Trek fans in the room, Klingons typically use a weapon called a disruptor)


So what do we mean when we say that technology is disruptive?  A simple definition, as provided by Technopedia, is “Disruptive Technology refers to any enhanced or completely new technology that replaces and disrupts an existing technology, rendering it obsolete.”  Disruptive technology can be hardware, software, networks, new processes and any combination of those as well.  Typically, the success of a disruptive technology is unexpected.  This is due to the fact that most disruptive technologies lack refinement, have some performance problems, are only known to a limited audience and may not yet have practical applications at the time of their creation (Christensen, 1997).   It’s not until later, once some of those issues are addressed, that the existing technology starts to be impacted and potentially threatened.

Another aspect of disruptive technology is that once it starts being adopted, it has the potential to transform the way we live and work, enable new business models, and provide a way for new companies to upset or disrupt the established order (Manyika, et.al. 2013).  At first glance, that may seem exaggerated, yet consider this list of technologies that were/are considered as disruptive at their time in history:

  • Steam Power
  • Assembly Line Manufacturing
  • Email
  • World Wide Web / Internet
  • Personal Computer
  • Mobile Phones / Smartphones
  • Video Streaming
  • Cloud Technology

There are hundreds more examples of technology that we take for granted today, which when it became public, it may not have been well accepted.  I doubt any of the original creators of these ideas had a concept of how great an impact their creation would have on the future society.  And the technologies that were replaced were firmly entrenched as the “leaders” of their realm.  Yet, can we image a world today without any of these technologies?   And if these technologies alone had such a huge impact on our society, then what is in store in the future?  There are emerging technologies that we see today such as 3D printing, self-driving vehicles, robotics & AI, the Internet of Things, and virtual reality.  We can already begin to see the impact these technologies have on consumers and companies are starting to be impacted as well.

What’s the next big thing around the corner and how much will it change our society?  And how do we adopt these new technologies?



Christensen, C. (1997). The Innovator’s Dilemma: Management of Innovation and Change. Harvard Business School Press.

Manyika, J., Chui, M., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Bisson, P., & Mars, A. (2013). Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business and the global economy.  McKinsey Global Institute.  Retrieved August 29, 2017 from http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/disruptive-technologies



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