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Few MIT Sloan Management Review articles garner as much attention as Andrew A. King and Baljir Baatartogtokh’s article “How Useful Is the Theory of Disruptive Innovation?” in the fall 2015 issue. After interviewing and surveying 79 industry experts, King and Baatartogtokh concluded that many of the 77 industry cases cited as examples of disruptive innovation by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen and his coauthor Michael E. Raynor did not actually fit four of the theory’s key elements well.
King and Baatartogtokh’s article attracted the attention of a number of media outlets — and generated a number of interesting responses. In the essays here, two authors — Juan Pablo Vázquez Sampere of IE Business School and Martin J. Bienenstock of the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP — take issue with King and Baatartogtokh’s conclusions. A third author, Ezra W. Zuckerman of the MIT Sloan School of Management, explores an intriguing question: What if the most important aspects of the theory of disruptive innovation are something different from what its proponents — and its detractors — emphasize? Finally, in an article on page 83, Joshua S. Gans of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management discusses King and Baatartogtokh’s findings in the context of his own research on disruption.
Missing the Mark on Disruptive Innovation
By Juan Pablo Vázquez Sampere
Every time I hear about a new study on disruptive innovation, I feel excited about the possibility that someone will come up with a way to explain the theory in a much clearer and more transparent manner. More often than not, I end up disappointed — as I was by Andrew A. King and Baljir Baatartogtokh’s article, “How Useful Is the Theory of Disruptive Innovation?” in the fall 2015 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.
For starters, King and Baatartogtokh argued that Clayton M. Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation has not been adequately tested in the academic literature. I would encourage the authors to revisit the literature, because to my count, there are more than 40 articles, including much of an entire issue in a leading academic journal (the Journal of Product Innovation Management in January 2006), that test and challenge disruption in many different ways. Furthermore, disruptive innovation is composed of more than four elements, yet the authors chose to test only four.
What’s more, the authors surveyed only 79 experts to evaluate 77 industries.
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