The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business
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The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  9,543 ratings  ·  337 reviews
In this revolutionary bestseller, Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen says outstanding companies can do everything right and still lose their market leadership -- or worse, disappear completely. And he not only proves what he says, he tells others how to avoid a similar fate.

Focusing on "disruptive technology" -- the Honda Super Cub, Intel's 8088 processor, or the hyd...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 7th 2003 by Harper Paperbacks (first published April 30th 1997)
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Rod Dunsmore
This is a great book on innovation and how start-up and entrepreneurs ought to fashion their company to go against entrenched incumbents.

The gist of the book is an interesting trend the author found when analyzing the industry. He found that certain innovations were "disruptive" -- meaning they changed the way a market worked, and some were "sustaining" -- meaning they were really just improvements on existing products.

The author traces disruptive innovations through the steel industry, where it...more
Mal Warwick
Chances are, you’re reading this review on an example of disruptive technology. An iPhone or other smartphone. An iPad or a notebook computer. Or simply a laptop. Every one of these devices turned its industry upside down when it was introduced, driving established companies to the brink of insolvency, or even into oblivion, and paving the way for new actors to enter the landscape.

Today, almost instinctively, we understand the concept of disruptive technology. But it wasn’t until after the publi...more
Nico Macdonald
This is one of the best books on innovation in the last 20 years. I read it in 2000 and still refer to it. Christensen's core insight/argument is that businesses fight shy of developing innovations that will 1: produce limit profits initially; 2: cannibalise core, high cashflow/profit lines. But that what look like niche technologies - Winchester drives, hydraulic backhoes, etc - improve in capability, reliability and reduce in price to the point that they entirely cannibalise the existing marke...more
Chris Johnson
So, the information, the ideas would make this a five star book. It's a way of thinking that helps ward off obsolescence, a way of thinking that gets people to understand where future disruption may come from. The whole idea: that good management (like, truely good) eventually leads to poor decisions is fascinating.

The example: If current customers demand "faster horsers" companies rightly put their energy into faster horses. What the customer says and wants isn't necessarily what's good for the...more
Bonnie Atkinson
Well, this is a mixed bag, this interesting little book. The observations are prescient but the presentation is abominable. I'm sure for those who demand an exhaustive regurgitation of every step in an analysis, it is useful, but I felt that most of the book could have been the research appendices. On the other hand, the conclusions drawn were incisive and incredibly useful. It would have worked well if it had been presented as a research paper with a 10-page abstract. As a practitioner, I could...more
Nelson Zagalo
A good book, but a bit disappointing because totally centred upon business managing. I would like to see the discussion occurring at a lower level, the creative moment, before management decisions. Leave here the five principles stated by Clayton in the book. I generally agree with all of them, being the fifth one the most subjective.

"Principle #1: Companies Depend on Customers and Investors for Resources

Principle #2: Small Markets Don’t Solve the Growth Needs of Large Companies

Principle #3: Mar...more
Notes from Clayton Christenson, The Innovator’s Dilemma

It pays to be a leader in a disruptive innovation
• Leadership in sustaining innovations gives little advantage
• Leadership in disruptive innovation creates enormous value

But established companies typically fail in the face of disruptive change
• Companies get organized to satisfy current customer’s needs and to facilitate design and production of current products. This organization can then prevent the organization most conducive to developin...more
Jeff Yoak
This is one of those books that becomes an instant classic. Everyone talks about it until you think you know most of what it has to say without reading it shortly after it comes out. You can barely carry on a conversation about technology without someone using the term "disruptive." It deserves that reception and as with most cases, there is much more to gain by reading the book than just the popular representation.

The book defined disruptive technologies vs. sustaining technologies and addresse...more
Ben Haley
Good argument, highly redundant.

The central argument is that companies miss important new markets because they are structured to serve the needs of their most profitable customers where new 'disruptive' technologies often emerge from smaller markets who's customers needs are quite different. Eventually the smaller market catches up to the demands of the profitable customers and by that time has developed an insurmountable lead in the utility that its original customers demanded.

The prime example...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ahmed Korayem
This book is disruptive for my own perception about business books !!! The concept of disruptive technologies is thoroughly explained with a lot of proofs, the root cause of the phenomenon is accurately identified with very insightful guidelines on how to overcome the disruptive technology challenge.

The book addresses managers in large corporations that are used to excel in managing their organization for high profitability and market leadership to tell them that what you used to do very well is...more
Biggest question is - how do you figure out something is a "disruptive" technology, not just a fringe/inefficient one. Only somewhat answered by the book - a lot of gut feel goes into that one I guess.

In a way, a tech is disruptive if after building a startup or division around it, you can find a segment of the market that's growing at a fast enough rate to fuel more innovation in this technology, until the new market starts to get big enough to rival the original market. Or if your competitors...more
Ben Love
I have read this before, many many years ago, and read it again this past week. I did this for two reasons: 1) it’s a title back in fashion thanks to Steve Jobs pointing out his admiration for the book via his biography and 2) I was struggling to frame up a “no regret” + innovation strategy for a wider audience and needed help articulating the nuances of where continuation and disruption part ways.
I do love this book. It is so sensible – in a way that you probably know a lot of what is in here b...more
Reuben Rail
"We are all facing the dilemma of succeeding in business and being aware of disruptive innovation in one form or another.

This is a powerful book with a paradoxical premise: that the very nature of success sows the seeds of destruction.

Christensen leads with some great case studies of how 'the mighty have fallen'; not because they were doing anything wrong, but specifically because they were doing things 'right'. They were using the best management and business practices, and they still fell pr...more
Pretty dry, but much more substantial than other innovation books I've read. Could have been about a third as long, but that said: the entire content of "The Lean Startup" is just one of the chapters, in context, of this book. The central notion here is that efficiency and planning are only possible in businesses that improve on the same metric many predecessors have; those that change the metric of success, or problem solved by the business, have no history to inform their future. The latter ty...more
Craig Dube
Dull book with no real useful insights or examples. For all of the author's talk of disruptive change, there is little explanation of what type of change is really disruptive, and what this means to the companies and industries affected. The entire book can be summed up with the author's assertion that to really address new markets and opportunities, you needs small, separate business units or companies to lead the charge. Unfortunately the author provides little real world examples that clearly...more
Calsee Robb
This book was on my list of "Books I should read" for a long time. Maybe this is why it was so disappointing, or maybe I've just read too many modern case studies of business models to find this engaging. It was interesting to read about the origins of many terms that I take for granted (i.e. disruptive technology), but I couldn't really relate any of the examples or theory beyond anything that's already been mentioned by other more recent authors. And its hard for a 20-something to relate to th...more
Hans de Zwart
This truly is a classic book explaining why companies have so much trouble weathering disruptive innovations in their industry. It precisely because these firm are very well managed, that they fail.

The book made me reflect on why it is so hard for my company to start investing in alternative energy sources. It is also interesting from the perspective of a consumer. If you want to invest in next-generation products, how do you know whether something is a disruptive technology and where you can fi...more
Vladimir Prus
Using data from various industries, this book discusses dilemma between sustaining and disruptive innovation.

Most technological companies drift up-market, improving technology for increasingly high-margin customers. This is sustaining innovation. It can be hard, but if you continue to serve the same market, return on investment is predictable. Sustaining innovation creates vacuum at the low end, and entrants fill it with new technologies, not as capable but better in other ways - simpler, more r...more
I don't read many books, but for some reason this one was a bit of a let down especially after all the fascinating reviews. For me it read like a textbook written by an engineer. With so much business/industry vernacular as interesting and ground breaking the content may be, it was boring and a struggle to read.

I'll try again another time, maybe when I'm in a more analytical mood.
TK Keanini
You can't be in business and not read this book. I've tagged it personally under game theory because he does touch on this domain inplicitly.

Some very key point in this book and the one I find most useful is the Law of Conservation of Modularity. This is a very useful pattern to know. Other very useful patterns exist in this book.
Becky Crump
There are truckloads of books that will explain why good companies aren’t great or what organizations need to do in order to be _____ (innovative, successful, efficient) - simply fill in the blank. The Innovator’s Dilemma was the first we have come across to shed some light on how commonly great companies fail from, of all things, doing what their board expects and what customers are asking of them!

The read was a great exploration of real-life giants like Kodak and Sears and the factors that bro...more
In my opinion mandatory theoretical background for entrepreneurs in all domains. Professor Christensen proposes a catchy theory (backed by solid evidence) that innovation in existing companies is not enough when pursued only to get greater sells/better margins. He says that there is a second type of innovation that, if left unnoticed by big companies, can lead them to failure. This second type of innovation also creates market place for smaller companies for which smaller profits are good enough...more
Jason Szanyi
Some good insights, particularly in light of the whole Netflix/Qwikster debacle, but this book took 220 pages to say what could have been said in 30 or 40.
Nice concept. Would have made an awesome pamphlet.
John Doyle
Redundant and largely intuitive observations.
Michael Burnam-fink
I've been trying to get a handle on what innovation is for a while, and Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen is a solid introduction to the corporate perspective. Christensen's study is based on the difference between disruptive and sustaining innovations in business, focusing primarily on hard drives but looping into backhoes and motorcycles, along with other topics.

Christensen's big result is that leading firms tend to fail when faced with disruptive innovation, losing out to...more
Fred Bubbers
“If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." - Henry Ford

Microsoft’s continued failure in emerging non-Windows-centric markets is a prime illustration of a pattern that should seem familiar to anyone who has followed the technology business for any length of time. A company is innovative, rises to the top, sets the standard for all to follow, but then loses its supremacy rather rapidly, and becomes just another company. The causes of failure are the very thing...more
Scott Shepard
A very interesesting and insightful read, Calayton Christensen examines why big companies employing talented people and sound managers can be left in the dust by small startups. How come IBM did not attack the desktop computer market when it first appeared? Why are some companies so slow to use the internet in their business? He addresses these questions with something called the Disruptive Innovation Theory. Basically a disruptive technology is a technology that creates a new market instead of...more
I'm sticking a fork in this and calling it read--I'd put it on the unfinished shelf since I feel like it's a bit cheating to say it's all read when I started skipping most the content in the chapters in the middle. If like me you are bored to tears by academic paper-style writing and graphs and such, just read the intro and the summary at the end and then if you really want, the intros and summaries of the chapters in-between. I expected more interesting anecdotal stories to illustrate the point...more
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  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles
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  • Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big
  • Lucky or Smart?: Secrets to an Entrepreneurial Life
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  • Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production
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Clayton M. Christensen is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, with a joint appointment in the Technology & Operations Management and General Management faculty groups. He is best known for his study of innovation in commercial enterprises. His first book, The Innovator's Dilemma, articulated his theory of disruptive technology.

More about Clayton M. Christensen...
How Will You Measure Your Life? Seeing What's Next: Using the Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth The Power of Everyday Missionaries Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns

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“This is one of the innovator’s dilemmas: Blindly following the maxim that good managers should keep close to their customers can sometimes be a fatal mistake.” 2 likes
“disruptive technology should be framed as a marketing challenge, not a technological one.” 1 likes
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