Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive Innovation describes a process by which a product or service initially takes root in simple applications at the bottom of a market—typically by being less expensive and more accessible and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.

Coined in the early 1990s by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, the term has become virtually ubiquitous from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Consequently, it’s also one of the most misunderstood and misapplied terms in the business lexicon. Disruptive Innovations are NOT breakthrough technologies that make good products better; rather they are innovations that make products and services more accessible and affordable, thereby making them available to a larger population.

Disruptive Innovations are NOT breakthrough technologies that make good products better.

What makes a successful Disruptive Innovation?

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Enabling Technology

An invention or innovation that makes a product more affordable and accessible to a wider population.

Innovative Business Model

A business model that targets nonconsumers (new customers who previously did not buy products or services in a given market) or low-end consumers (the least profitable customers).

Coherent Value Network

A network in which suppliers, partners, distributors, and customers are each better off when the disruptive technology prospers.

The Evolution of Disruption Theory

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Why it Matters

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Disruptive Innovations have the potential to be an incredibly positive force in the world. Our work at the Christensen Institute has shown that the principles of disruption can be beneficial to areas across society, including healthcare, education, and economic growth.



Global Prosperity


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Uber, disruptive innovation, and regulated markets

In “Disrupting law school,” Michele Pistone, a law professor at Villanova University, and I argue that regulations—such as bar licensure and restrictions on the unauthorized practice of law—will not protect lawyers and law schools from disruption in the long term....

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Jobs to be Done

The Jobs to Be Done theory is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives.