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Share Although the smaller drives represented disruptive technological change, each was technologically straightforward. In fact, there were engineers at many leading companies who championed the new technologies and built working prototypes with bootlegged resources before management gave a formal go-ahead.

Still, the leading companies could not move the products through their organizations and into the market in a timely way. Each time a disruptive technology emerged, between one-half and two-thirds of the established manufacturers failed to introduce models employing the new architecture—in stark contrast to their timely launches of critical sustaining technologies.

Three waves of entrant companies led these revolutions; they first captured the new markets and then dethroned the leading companies in the mainstream markets. How could technologies that were initially inferior and useful only to new markets eventually threaten leading companies in established markets? For example, the 5. Generally, disruptive technologies look financially unattractive to established companies. The potential revenues from the discernible markets are small, and it is often difficult to project how big the markets for the technology will be over the long term.

As a result, managers typically conclude that the technology cannot make a meaningful contribution to corporate growth and, therefore, that it is not worth the management effort required to develop it. In addition, established companies have often installed higher cost structures to serve sustaining technologies than those required by disruptive technologies.

As a result, managers typically see themselves as having two choices when deciding whether to pursue disruptive technologies. One is to go downmarket and accept the lower profit margins of the emerging markets that the disruptive technologies will initially serve. The other is to go upmarket with sustaining technologies and enter market segments whose profit margins are alluringly high. Any rational resource-allocation process in companies serving established markets will choose going upmarket rather than going down.

Managers of companies that have championed disruptive technologies in emerging markets look at the world quite differently. Without the high cost structures of their established counterparts, these companies find the emerging markets appealing. Once the companies have secured a foothold in the markets and improved the performance of their technologies, the established markets above them, served by high-cost suppliers, look appetizing.

When they do attack, the entrant companies find the established players to be easy and unprepared opponents because the opponents have been looking upmarket themselves, discounting the threat from below. But recognizing the pattern and figuring out how to break it are two different things. Although entrants invaded established markets with new technologies three times in succession, none of the established leaders in the disk-drive industry seemed to learn from the experiences of those that fell before them.

Management myopia or lack of foresight cannot explain these failures. The problem is that managers keep doing what has worked in the past: serving the rapidly growing needs of their current customers.

None of the established leaders in the disk-drive industry learned from the experiences of those that fell before them. Most strategic proposals—to add capacity or to develop new products or processes—take shape at the lower levels of organizations in engineering groups or project teams.

Companies then use analytical planning and budgeting systems to select from among the candidates competing for funds. Proposals to create new businesses in emerging markets are particularly challenging to assess because they depend on notoriously unreliable estimates of market size.

Because managers are evaluated on their ability to place the right bets, it is not surprising that in well-managed companies, mid-and top-level managers back projects in which the market seems assured.

By staying close to lead customers, as they have been trained to do, managers focus resources on fulfilling the requirements of those reliable customers that can be served profitably.

Risk is reduced—and careers are safeguarded—by giving known customers what they want. It had pioneered 5. The company was the leading manufacturer of 5. Engineers at Seagate were the second in the industry to develop working prototypes of 3. By early , they had made more than 80 such models with a low level of company funding. The engineers forwarded the new models to key marketing executives, and the trade press reported that Seagate was actively developing 3.

Manufacturing and financial executives at the company pointed out another drawback to the 3. According to their analysis, the new drives would never be competitive with the 5. Senior managers quite rationally decided that the 3. At the time, the entire market for 3.

The 3. Seagate subsequently introduced new models of 5. Conner focused on selling its 3. By the end of , 3. But it was too late. By then, Seagate faced strong competition. For a while, the company was able to defend its existing market by selling 3. In fact, a large proportion of its 3. But, in the end, Seagate could only struggle to become a second-tier supplier in the new portable-computer market.

In contrast, Conner and Quantum built a dominant position in the new portable-computer market and then used their scale and experience base in designing and manufacturing 3. Seagate was willing to enter the market for 3. Nonetheless, Seagate has been reduced to a shadow of its former self in the personal-computer market. It should come as no surprise that few companies, when confronted with disruptive technologies, have been able to overcome the handicaps of size or success.

But it can be done. There is a method to spotting and cultivating disruptive technologies. Determine whether the technology is disruptive or sustaining. The first step is to decide which of the myriad technologies on the horizon are disruptive and, of those, which are real threats.

Most companies have well-conceived processes for identifying and tracking the progress of potentially sustaining technologies, because they are important to serving and protecting current customers. But few have systematic processes in place to identify and track potentially disruptive technologies.

One approach to identifying disruptive technologies is to examine internal disagreements over the development of new products or technologies. Marketing and financial managers, because of their managerial and financial incentives, will rarely support a disruptive technology. On the other hand, technical personnel with outstanding track records will often persist in arguing that a new market for the technology will emerge—even in the face of opposition from key customers and marketing and financial staff.

Disagreement between the two groups often signals a disruptive technology that top-level managers should explore. Define the strategic significance of the disruptive technology. The next step is to ask the right people the right questions about the strategic importance of the disruptive technology. Disruptive technologies tend to stall early in strategic reviews because managers either ask the wrong questions or ask the wrong people the right questions.

For example, established companies have regular procedures for asking mainstream customers—especially the important accounts where new ideas are actually tested—to assess the value of innovative products. Generally, these customers are selected because they are the ones striving the hardest to stay ahead of their competitors in pushing the performance of their products.

Hence these customers are most likely to demand the highest performance from their suppliers. For this reason, lead customers are reliably accurate when it comes to assessing the potential of sustaining technologies, but they are reliably inaccurate when it comes to assessing the potential of disruptive technologies.

They are the wrong people to ask. A simple graph plotting product performance as it is defined in mainstream markets on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis can help managers identify both the right questions and the right people to ask. First, draw a line depicting the level of performance and the trajectory of performance improvement that customers have historically enjoyed and are likely to expect in the future.

Then locate the estimated initial performance level of the new technology. If the technology is disruptive, the point will lie far below the performance demanded by current customers. The new technology, therefore, is strategically critical. Instead of taking this approach, most managers ask the wrong questions.

They compare the anticipated rate of performance improvement of the new technology with that of the established technology. If the new technology has the potential to surpass the established one, the reasoning goes, they should get busy developing it. Pretty simple. But this sort of comparison, while valid for sustaining technologies, misses the central strategic issue in assessing potentially disruptive technologies.

Many of the disruptive technologies we studied never surpassed the capability of the old technology. It is the trajectory of the disruptive technology compared with that of the market that is significant. For example, the reason the mainframe-computer market is shrinking is not that personal computers outperform mainframes but because personal computers networked with a file server meet the computing and data-storage needs of many organizations effectively.

Main-frame-computer makers are reeling not because the performance of personal-computing technology surpassed the performance of mainframe technology but because it intersected with the performance demanded by the established market. Consider the graph again. Because the capacity of 3.

However, two other 5. In that market, the trajectory of capacity demanded was essentially parallel to the trajectory of capacity improvement that technologists could supply in the 3. As a result, entering the 3. Locate the initial market for the disruptive technology. Once managers have determined that a new technology is disruptive and strategically critical, the next step is to locate the initial markets for that technology.

Market research, the tool that managers have traditionally relied on, is seldom helpful: at the point a company needs to make a strategic commitment to a disruptive technology, no concrete market exists.

Because disruptive technologies frequently signal the emergence of new markets or market segments, managers must create information about such markets—who the customers will be, which dimensions of product performance will matter most to which customers, what the right price points will be. Managers can create this kind of information only by experimenting rapidly, iteratively, and inexpensively with both the product and the market.

For established companies to undertake such experiments is very difficult. The resource-allocation processes that are critical to profitability and competitiveness will not—and should not—direct resources to markets in which sales will be relatively small. How, then, can an established company probe a market for a disruptive technology?

Let start-ups—either ones the company funds or others with no connection to the company—conduct the experiments. Small, hungry organizations are good at placing economical bets, rolling with the punches, and agilely changing product and market strategies in response to feedback from initial forays into the market.


Tecnologías disruptivas: la captura de la ola

Share Although the smaller drives represented disruptive technological change, each was technologically straightforward. In fact, there were engineers at many leading companies who championed the new technologies and built working prototypes with bootlegged resources before management gave a formal go-ahead. Still, the leading companies could not move the products through their organizations and into the market in a timely way. Each time a disruptive technology emerged, between one-half and two-thirds of the established manufacturers failed to introduce models employing the new architecture—in stark contrast to their timely launches of critical sustaining technologies.


Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave

Una vez que las arquitecturas disruptivo se establecieron en sus nuevos mercados, las innovaciones sostenidas elevaron el rendimiento de cada arquitectura a lo largo de trayectorias empinadas, tan empinadas que el rendimiento disponible en cada arquitectura pronto satisfizo las necesidades de los clientes en los mercados establecidos. Uno es ir. Sin las estructuras de alto costo de sus contrapartes establecidas, estas empresas encuentran atractivos los mercados emergentes. El problema es que los gerentes siguen haciendo lo que ha funcionado en el pasado: atender las necesidades crecientes de sus clientes actuales. Debido a que los gerentes son evaluados sobre su capacidad para hacer las apuestas correctas, no es sorprendente que en empresas bien gestionadas, gerentes de nivel medio y superior respalden proyectos en los que el mercado parece asegurado. El riesgo se reduce y se salvaguardan las carreras profesionales al ofrecer a los clientes conocidos lo que quieren. Los ingenieros de Seagate fueron los segundos en la industria en desarrollar prototipos de funcionamiento de unidades de 3,5 pulgadas.


Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave (HBR Bestseller)




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