4 Business Ideas That Changed the World: Disruptive Innovation

AMY BERNSTEIN: Welcome to 4 Business Ideas That Changed the World, a special series of the HBR IdeaCast. In the 1980s, Clayton Christiansen was in his 30s, the business guy at a startup. The company was making ceramics out of advanced materials, and it was able to take over the market niche from DuPont and Alcoa. That experience left Christensen puzzled. How could a small company with few resources beat rich incumbents? The question led to his theory of disruptive innovation, introduced in the pages of Harvard Business Review in 1995, and popularized two years later in The Innovator’s Dilemma.

The idea has inspired a generation of entrepreneurs. It’s reshaped R&D strategies at countless established firms, seeking to disrupt themselves before somebody else does. It’s changed how investors place billions of dollars and how governments spend billions more, aiming to kickstart new industries and spark economic growth. But the idea has taken on a meaning well…

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