Disruption Corruption: What Disruption Theory Is And What It Isn’t

Anyone who studies business — and especially those who follow tech — knows Clayton Christensen is the business school professor who developed the theory of disruption. This week, in an article in the New Yorker, Jill Lepore took that theory — and Clay Christensen — to task. Will Oremus, of Slate, sums up part of Lepore’s critique:

Disruptive innovation is simply a theory about why businesses fail. “It’s not more than that,” Lepore says. “It doesn’t explain change. It’s not a law of nature.” As for the future, it’s “unreadable.”

Where Lepore Got It Right

[pullquote]When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course. ~ Peter Drucker[/pullquote]

Lepore is right to criticize those who blindly worship “the gospel of innovation.” The word “disruption” is misused and abused. It has come to mean almost anything and it can be used in almost any circumstance. I’m told, for example, babies in Silicon Valley, no longer soil their diapers, they “disrupt” them.

People who have no connection to Christensen, many of whom don’t seem to even understand his theory, have declared everyone and everything to be disruptive. The problem has become so bad that that many intelligent people have begun writing it off as a meaningless buzzword. ~ Timothy B. Lee

Where Lepore Got It Wrong

Project is stuck, he is in trouble.

All intellectual movements start with trenchant ways of understanding the world. But as these ideas gain currency they are used to explain more and more disparate phenomena, until the explanation loses its predictive power. ~ Dan Drezner ((Excerpt From: Robert Cottrell. “The Browser Book of Quotations.”))

I love the above quote because it was not written about Disruption Theory, yet it perfectly describes what has happened to Disruption Theory. Lepore’s criticisms are not aimed at Disruption Theory itself, they’re aimed at the diluted version of Disruption Theory currently in vogue. Lepore is wrong to dismiss Christensen’s theory out of hand because she’s dismissing the counterfeit theory rather than the original.

Not Everything Is Disruption Theory

I think the overuse of disruption theory can best be explained by a joke:

Paul Pundit and Andy Analyst like to put together jigsaw puzzles. One day, Andy gets a call from Paul. 
‘I’ve got a problem,’ says Paul, ‘I’ve bought this jigsaw puzzle, but it’s too hard. None of the pieces fit together and I can’t find any edges.’

‘What’s the picture of?’ asks Andy.
‘It’s of a big rooster,’ replies Paul.
‘ All right,’ says Andy, ‘I’ll come over and have a look.’ 
So Andy goes over to Paul’s house. 
Paul takes him into the kitchen where the jigsaw is strewn all over the kitchen table. 
Andy takes one look at the kitchen table and turns to Paul and says:

‘For Heaven’s sake — put the cornflakes back in the box.’

Humans look for patterns everywhere and generally find them, whether they are there or not. But not everything has a pattern. And not everything is a jigsaw puzzle. And not everything is Disruption Theory. If we want to examine the validity of Disruption Theory, we first have to define what Disruption Theory is — and what it isn’t.

What Disruption Theory Isn’t

Trouble is an attached thing .

Professor Joshua Gans provides us with his definition of Disruption Theory:

At the heart of the theory is a type of technology — a disruptive technology. In my mind, this is a technology that satisfies two criteria.

Nitpick #1: I don’t think Disruption Theory is necessarily limited to technology. But let us continue.

First, it initially performs worse than existing technologies on precisely the dimensions that set the leading, for want of a better word, ‘metrics’ of the industry. So for disk drives, it might be capacity or performance even as new entrants promoted lower energy drives that were useful for laptops.

Nitpick #2: I think a better way to put this is to say the new product doesn’t appeal to one’s best customers. Whatever.

To distinguish a disruptive technology from a mere bad idea or dead-end, you need a second criteria…

…the technology has a fast path of improvement on precisely those metrics the industry currently values.

Humungous Gigantic Mega-Disagreement #3: Okay, stop the presses ’cause that’s flat out wrong. ((I want to make something very, very clear. Professor Joshua Gans is probably ten times smarter than I am. And if he were to respond to this article, he would probably say I am about to misinterpret what he is actually saying. But the misinterpretation I’m about to describe is so common and so insidious, I feel the need to use Professor Gan’s actual words — if not his actual meaning — to illustrate my point.)) The disruptive technology surely does improve quickly but not necessarily on the metrics the incumbent industry necessarily values.

Take, for example, the iPad. Most tech industry observers now agree the tablet is disrupting the PC. ((For the purposes of this article, the term “PC” includes both notebook and desktop computers, including the Mac.)) The tablet fulfills Mr. Gans’ first criteria for being disruptive: “it initially performs worse than existing technologies on precisely the dimensions that set the leading, for want of a better word, ‘metrics’ of the industry.” Or, as I put it, the new product doesn’t appeal to the PC manufacturer’s best customers.

Now here’s where the confusion arises. Professor Gans goes on to say: “the technology has a fast path of improvement on precisely those metrics the industry currently values.” That may be true but it may also be entirely incidental. And it leads to the mistaken belief that the disruptive product wants to BECOME the disrupted product. In fact, the disruptive product is far more ambitious than that.

Inverted Definitions

Reverse Inverted pyramid of rings

When the iPad was introduced, there were vicious debates over whether or not the iPad was even a computer. And no, I am not making this up. These debates were taken very seriously. The neck-beards in the an-iPad-is-not-a computer crowd would look at their existing (usually high-end) PCs, make a checklist of their PC’s features (neck-beards LOVE features), compare that checklist to the iPad and find the iPad seriously wanting. ((If you think this debate is ancient history, just last week a commentator on this site argued an iPad wasn’t truly worthy because it couldn’t write programs for itself. Sheesh.))

Effect And Cause
In their quest to insure the iPad was forever banned from the ranks of computers everywhere, the neck-beards had made an egregious logical error. They had essentially reversed cause and effect.

You should first look a definition and then determine whether the object under consideration does or does not fit within that definition’s criteria. You don’t do it the other way around — you don’t look at the object under consideration and use its characteristics to construct a definition. Allow me to illustrate.

Cows Don’t Give Milk
Looking at your PC and using that as the criteria for defining a computer is akin to a foolish farmer looking at his goat and using it as the criteria for defining what a milk producing mammal is. Let’s follow his foolish train of thought:

— A goat gives milk.
— A cow is not a goat. (Lousy climber, no horns, lots of other crucial “features” missing.)
— Therefore, a cow does not give milk.

Sound familiar?

— A PC is a computer.
— An iPad is not a PC.
— Therefore, an iPad is not a computer.

When you put it that way, it is easy to see both the foolish farmer and the pedantically-inspired neck-beard have gotten the use of definitions exactly backwards.

Arcane Mistakes Are Actually The Norm

Friend who reach out to unexpected trouble

I bring up the seemingly arcane “the-iPad-is-not-a-computer” debate because this kind of thinking is actually not arcane at all. On the contrary, it is the norm. Industry incumbents — just like our well meaning, but slightly delusional neck-beards and foolish farmer — routinely make the identical mistake.

In the same way the neck-beard uses his PC to define what a computer is, in the same way the foolish farmer uses his goat to define what a milk producing mammal is, that is the same way industry incumbents use their existing products to define what their product categories are. ((Why do we do this? it is a combination of myopia and hubris and we can mock it all we want, but to do so is to mock ourselves, because it is clearly deeply embedded within our nature.)) But computers and mammals and categories are only so constrained in the minds of neck-beards, foolish farmers and industry insiders. Consumers know better.

  1. Consumers know they don’t want better PCs, they want better computing experiences.
  2. Consumers know they don’t want better goat milk, they want better milk.
  3. Consumers know they don’t want better products, they want a better life or, at least, they want an experience that makes life better.

The disrupting product is NOT on “a fast path of improvement on precisely those metrics the industry currently values.” In fact, just the opposite. Yes, the product is on a “fast path of improvement.” However that improvement is NOT based on existing metrics and it is NOT based on the current industry values. Instead, the improvement is based on PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN OR UNEXPLORED metrics and it is based on CONSUMER tastes the current industry does NOT value and may even abhor.

And that makes all the difference.

What Disruption Theory Is

bridge

In my opinion, Ben Thompson of Stretechery fame, has a much better explanation for what Disruption Theory is. To start with, he contends Clayton Christensen actually has TWO theories of disruption: New Market Disruption and Low-End Disruption.

New Market Disruption

(T)he theory of New Market Disruption describes how incumbent companies ignore new technologies that don’t serve the needs of their customers or fit within their existing business models. However, as the new technology, which excels on completely different attributes than the incumbent’s product, continues to mature, it eventually takes over the market.

This remains an incredibly elegant and powerful theory, and I fully subscribe to it. We are, in fact, seeing it in action with Windows – the incumbent – and the iPad and other tablets; new technology that is inferior on attributes that matter to Windows’ best customers, but superior on other attributes that matter to many others.

Spot on. Using our iPad example to illustrate, the new product (iPad) is a lousy PC, so PC makers treat it with disdain. But — and here’s the key — for most, the iPad is a better COMPUTING EXPERIENCE than the PC, in just the same way that, for most, a cow provides a better milk experience than does a goat. The incumbent PC manufacturer is trying to make things better for the consumer by making a better PC. The incumbent farmer is trying to make things better for the consumer by producing better goat milk. But the consumer doesn’t give a damn about remaining within artificially constructed industry categories. They want a better experience, whatever the source.

Low-End Disruption

Ben Thompson goes on to describe — and then critique — Clayton Christensen’s second theory: Low-End Disruption.

It is Christensen’s second theory of disruption – low-end disruption – that I believe is flawed.

Briefly, an integrated approach wins at the beginning of a new market, because it produces a superior product that customers are willing to pay for. However, as a product category matures, even modular products become “good enough” – customers may know that the integrated product has superior features or specs, but they aren’t willing to pay more, and thus the low-priced providers, who build a product from parts with prices ground down by competition, come to own the market. Christensen was sure this would happen with the iPod, and he – and his many adherents – are sure it will happen to the iPhone.

In other words, it’s not enough to say the iPhone has saturated the high end market and that growth will slow; rather, the iPhone will soon overshoot customers completely, and will in fact plummet in total sales in the face of good-enough Androids available for hundreds of dollars less than the overpriced iPhone 5C.

Ben Thompson’s Take
According to Ben Thompson, Low-End Disruption Theory is flawed because it focuses on the behavior of BUSINESSES, not consumers. His full explanation can be found HERE and I highly recommend it to you. If you’re at all interested in Disruption Theory — and if you’ve read this far, you must be — it’s an excellent read.

My Take
Business buyers tend to overvalue low priced products because business buyers are normally judged by how much of the company’s money they spend. And business buyers tend to devalue the end user’s experiences with those low cost products because those self-same business buyers are typically not themselves the end user.

All of this fits in beautifully with the Theory of Low-End Disruption. However, the theory’s blind spot is consumers.

Consumers — like business buyers — appreciate a bargain too. However, consumers — unlike business buyers — are also the end user so they tend to HIGHLY value the end user experience. And that experience often evokes an emotional response that is difficult to quantify and measure. None of this works well within the framework of Low-End Disruption Theory.

Business consultant Peter Drucker famously said: “What gets measured gets managed.” I have never heard of a consumer corollary to that rule, but if such a corollary did exist it would have to closely conform to Francois De La Rochefoucauld’s observation that:

We never desire strongly, what we desire rationally.

In other words, to create a business theory that has predictive value — and if you think about it, every business in the world attempts to do just that — you have to understand not just the mind of the consumer, but their heart as well.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, in “Disrupting Apple’s Tao“, I’ll explore whether Apple is subject to Disruption Theory…or whether Apple is the exception to Disruption Theory…or whether Apple is the exception that proves the rule…or whether Apple is the originator of a rule that has proven to be exceptional…or whatever.

Normally my Insider article requires a subscription but I’m basing much of tomorrow’s article on a previously written article — “The Tao Of Apple” — so I’m going to make it open to all.

Please join me then.

Published by

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

1,466 thoughts on “Disruption Corruption: What Disruption Theory Is And What It Isn’t”

    1. Thank you, Alex.

      I have to say — with no modesty at all — that it was one of my all-time favorites.

      1. I have to say that TechP, Daring FireBall, Asymco, and AppleInsider are the best Apple / tech info around!

        1. I’d have to agree with you there, but don’t forget The Loop (loopinsight.com). Add macrumors and that’s my top six links. Then there’s Ben Thompson’s site……

  1. Excellent article up till the point where you argue that low-end disruption works only for businesses. I especially agree that most critiques of Clay’s work are actually criticizing the diluted version.

    As for professor Gans metrices, I think Clay sums up the right way to think about them as “jobs to be done”. I’m not sure why you even reference him, but I think it’s probably more constructive to follow Clay’s own descriptions.

    I also think that there are other explanations for iPod’s resilience which do not need modifications to Clay original theory, but I’ll leave that to after I read your second article.

    1. “Excellent article up till the point where you argue that low-end disruption works only for businesses” – Naofumi

      So I may understand, can you explain further why you think low-end disruption applies to Consumer goods?

      1. In Clay’s work, he has not excluded consumer products. For example, he often brings up transistor radios as a low-end disruption to vacuum tube radios.

  2. John, when you were a lawyer, I would hate to have been on the opposing side of you in court! No matter how well prepared I was, you would have been better prepared.

    1. Your praises is not deserved…

      …but I’ll take it anyway! Thanks so much for reading and thank you for your generous feedback.

  3. I haven’t studied this issue, but it’s not clear to me that disruption is a very useful concept in trying to predict the future. Every company has to place their bets on where things are going, what technologies are winners, how markets will change, how various changes in what is possible will interact, etc. After the fact, if their bets are wrong, we can say they’ve been disrupted. For decades MicroSoft placed their bets that selling to enterprises and having strong backward compatibility were the way to go. They kept being right until they were wrong.

    It may well be that companies get lazy and aren’t as vigilant as they should be when markets change. People get good at optimizing the details of a certain strategy and forget to keep checking their basic assumptions, or develop an efficient corporate structure that is ill suited to deal with a change to come. But predicting long-term winners is really predicting evolution: the interactions and contingencies are generally unpredictable.

    There is clearly a large and lucrative market for business horoscopes, and consultants who have scientific sounding stories about predicting the future. This makes me skeptical of these people. Some practices will clearly allow companies to be more innovative and more adaptable, but ultimately it’s all about where to put resources, and making guesses about the future.

    1. Companies have always failed for a variety of reasons. What makes disruption theory intriguing is that it explains how companies may fail even when they’re seemingly doing all the right things. I think its well worth studying.

      1. I agree that it’s worthwhile to study other’s past mistakes. It seems to me, though, that the questions of which innovations to focus on and which to ignore, and where to be flexible and where to be efficient, and where to take risks and where to be careful, are more obvious in retrospect than in prospect.

        For example, Apple feels that focus is one of their great assets. Maybe they’ll eventually be disrupted by a company that tries everything, and one of those tries hits the jackpot. Time will tell. Great strengths have always also been great weaknesses — this is the essence of tragedy. Self confidence and trusting his own instincts allowed Steve Jobs to build Apple. They also allowed him to delay conventional treatment of his cancer until it was too late. It’s useful to be reminded that our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses, but it’s hard to change, or even know when to try to change.

        1. Other companies are already trying everything. The problem is, they might not realize how important vertical integration is in making that product great — and that is what makes a hit; therefore they fail to “hit the jackpot”. There were MP3 players before the iPod. They were phones before the iPhone. There were tablets before the iPad. There are now wearables on the market.

          TV/TV Content is another area “ripe for disruption”. But, already, Apple is tackling Health/Fitness and Home connectedness.

          Focus is an asset for Apple, but only insofar as it is a byproduct of their culture. They want to build great products, and they feel focus is a necessary part of that. Others could replicate some focus.

          But, the key is that it is not so much about hanging on to a product with Apple. The key is that Apple is willing to disrupt itself. That is a very rare quality.

          They were willing to move the hub from the Mac to the iPhone. They were willing to let the iPod go. They were willing for new users to buy iPads instead of Macs, etc. MS is only just now willing to disrupt itself slightly by making Office available on iOS — about 3 yrs too late. Now MS and Google have made efforts to follow Apple into more vertical integration around hardware products, and they haven’t done so well.

          Apple has great scope to meet any competitor where Apple feels it should compete: custom chipset design, supply chain and owning equipment on the assembly line, materials (liquid metal and sapphire, for example), world class software team, etc. When Apple brings all these together, they will be hard to disrupt in a particular product that Apple already produces or decides to re-invent.

          So, if you want to know how “Disruption Theory” can predict the future, or how useful it is, then look at corporate culture and a company’s attitude to self-disruption. Horace Dediu on Asymco has written a lot about how Apple may be immune to disruption, or the exception that proves the rule.

          1. I agree with all the strengths you mention for Apple, but I don’t see that invoking the word “disruption” helps predict which Apple strengths will eventually cause them to fail. Christensen has predicted their failure several times already, and been spectacularly wrong. We can make up excuses for this, but it hardly adds credibility to the predictive power of “disruption theory”. Hopefully it will take decades, but eventually Apple will fail if it continues to do everything right, according to our current understanding, and we will then call that “disruption”.

  4. Disruption theory is following the arc of black plastic glasses. First, used by brainy people, then by people who wanted to look like smart people, and now by people who wear them because everybody is wearing them.

    Horace Dediu over at Asymco was a student of Clayton Christensen and has written extensively about disruption, innovation, and jobs to be done.

    1. Asymco is well worth reading. Just FYI, I wear black plastic glasses because I needed a pair of cheap tough glasses while my wife and I built our house (took three years). They turned out to be the most comfortable glasses I’ve ever had, and my kids thought they made me look like a lawyer, which I thought was neat. So I kept wearing them. They’re great. Reminds me of Apple products, good quality, practical, helps you get stuff done, and kinda cool.

    2. I can’t imagine that anyone reading this article hasn’t been reading Horace’s blog for years. I’m a bit over theories though. While they can help with quantifiable subjects like science or mathematics, people love to sprout theories about human behaviours that while measurable over small periods or data sets, are just that, measurements. While some people, specifically Horace, are able to see patterns in these numbers or can correlate seemingly unrelated measurements to draw a picture of actual phenomena that predicts results for useful periods into the future, most are self serving, plain wrong or just bs.
      Remember Horace’s analysis of phone profits from around 2009 and more recently, adoption rates of technologies from the early 20th century till today?
      It seems the best result from Christensen’s pompous “disruption theory” is the inspiration for Dedieu. Most of the rest spruiking about it (apart from Mr Kirk) are hacks and con artists.

    3. I respectfully disagree. I still find disruption theory helpful in many instances. Your mileage may differ. 🙂

  5. “What gets measured gets managed.”

    It is probably no coincidence that Tim Cook’s favorite metric seems to be “customer sat” (although I’m sure that he also takes many other measurements into consideration).

      1. If you can measure it, it’s also relatively easy to reproduce. I wonder how these metrics types measure inspiration.

        1. “If you can measure it, it’s also relatively easy to reproduce.” – klahanas

          That’s not true at all. Let’s put it this way. Measuring something doesn’t guarantee that you successfully reproduce it but NOT measuring it all but guarantees that you CAN NOT reproduce that thing.’

          1. The hard part is figuring out what to measure. When technology get caught up on measurements we end up with the speeds and feeds crowds.

            Joe

          2. I agree with what you said, and it’s precisely that with which I made my point. If you can fully and completely measure it, you can reproduce it completely and fully. The entire scientific method relies on that.

            I’m a huge believer in measurement. For reasons I don’t want to get into here, it’s engrained in me. But not everything is subject to correct measurement, to meaningful measurement.

            Compare David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, and The Velvet Underground. What metric could possibly give a clear and complete picture of the differences or the value of each artist’s work? You could say record sales, but that is a very limited dimension of the entire picture, and artistically meaningless.

            Forgive this long quote, but IMO, it’s quite profound.

            “There are two kinds of geniuses, the “ordinary” and the “magicians.” An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they have done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. They are, to use mathematical jargon, in the orthogonal complement of where we are and the working of their minds is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible. Even after we understand what they have done, the process by which they have done it is completely dark. They seldom, if ever, have students because they cannot be emulated and it must be terribly frustrating for a brilliant young mind to cope with the mysterious ways in which the magician’s mind works. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest caliber.”

            —Mark Kac, quoted by James Gleick in Genius

          3. I’ve read that quote about geniuses before and I absolutely love it. Very insightful. Thank you for sharing it and re-reminding me of its contents.

          4. I very much agree with your statement regarding measurements. If we believe that what gets measured gets done, then what do we do about important things like “customer experience” that are so terribly hard to measure. It’s a quandary and an important challenge for businesses everywhere.

          5. Christensen speculates that the spreadsheet is one cause of “The Capitalist’s Dilemma.” The spreadsheet made certain business numbers easy to measure and then people elevated improving those numbers to primary goals for their companies.

    1. “It is probably no coincidence that Tim Cook’s favorite metric seems to be “customer sat” ~ Mayson

      I think you’re on to something there. Customer Satisfaction is almost a “bottom line” that measures the end relit of endless inputs from the metaphorical “top lines”. By constantly harping on customers satisfaction, Tim Cook is signaling the employees of Apple that it is the customer and the customer’s experience that matters most.

    1. Blue Ocean Strategy doesn’t steal away the over served customers of a great company making a great product. Instead, it goes where there is no competition and creates its own user base.

      A great example is the Nintendo Wii. While the X-Box and Play Station were duking it out in a battle to win over the hard-core console gaming fan, Nintendo put out a product that appealed to kids and parents and grandparents and all sorts of people who would never have been caught dead playing hard core console games.

      1. I think Apple TV + iOS + iDevices/controllers is going to do something like the Wii, on a larger scale, a larger blue ocean so to speak.

      2. Thank you, Mr Kirk.

        So, may I say that iPod is new market disruption, but iTunes is blue ocean. There are many MP3 music players before iPod. But there’s no digital music store before iTunes, well… at least nothing eminence. Am I correct?

        1. Actually, the iPod (hardware) iTunes (software) bundled together (service) were really all one converging technology wave. The iPod didn’t take off until it was joined by iTunes. Together, they revolutionize music distribution by making it easy to download, easy to pay, easy to buy (one song at a time unbundled from albums) easy to store, easy to locate and easy to play. That’s a lot of pieces and they all had to fit together seamlessly. But once they did, it was obvious that that was the way to go and every music service since has played off of that basic formula.

          In terms of disruption theory, the iPod/iTunes combination was considered to be inferior to CDs which were real (there’s value to holding something in your hand, digital is ephemeral nearly indestructible and could be played on all sorts of existing third party music players. But the iPod/iTunes combo appealed to the over served kids who didn’t want bulky CDs or CD players, didn’t want albums and didn’t need high fidelity sound. The surprise was that Apple made the whole process so seamless that people were willing to pay 99 cents for something that they could have stolen for free from the internet.

          Did any of that make sense? I feel like I just wandered off on a tangent. Let me know. 🙂

          1. Your first comment is clear to me, but the second one is confusing me. It does make sense, but make my understanding a bit more blurry. I’m sorry, I’m not really into this kind of this business things. So, what is the iPod/iTunes combination was? A disruption, or a blue ocean? Or something else entirely? 🙂

            PS: Sorry for my late respons, I have been quite busy that made me forgot that I put a comment on this site. 🙂

  6. Speaking of disruption, how does China fit in as the world’s Walmart? They seem to be the ultimate low (low) end disruptor with no concern for user experience, yet are wiping out whole industries and even economies, or are about to. Talk about sink or swim…..

    1. If China follows the trajectory of Japan, before you know it, they will be producing high-quality goods. If fact, I think they already are.

      However, software has always been difficult for East-Asian industrial powers. That may or may not remain second-rate.

      1. I don’t think the Japanese phenomenon necessarily fits the new “improved” Chinese model of world domination that is harnessing the unbelievable greed and short sighted opportunism of their “customers”, all in the name of shareholders of course.
        Which high quality Korean goods are you referring to? My experience has been otherwise so far, so I will be avoiding them for the foreseeable future.
        As far as I can tell, the only high quality goods from China are those produced by companies with stringent and obsessive QC like apple. And software…..never mind interfaces for electronic devices, is almost universally appalling and user aggressive.
        I think I can count the number user friendly software producers on one hand, and two of them begin with A.
        That doesn’t include android btw.
        I’m not in the least surprised that the average human cannot control or comprehend how to control most of the devices they have the misfortune to purchase.
        I’m not referring only to products from Asia btw.

        1. Which high quality Korean goods? The ones that are found in high quality non-Korean goods such as the screen on your iPhone or iMac. And thousands of other goods that are invisible to you because they are components in the non-Korean goods that you purchase.

    2. “no concern for user experience, yet are wiping out whole industries and even economies, or are about to”

      But who are their customers? Not the end buyers, who probably heartily wish they could get stuff that was not made in China. Instead they are selling to the wal-marts and other corporations who have decided to focus exclusively on undercutting everyone else, single-mindedly pursuing the bottom line and the bottom of the market even when that ruins their customer experience and makes them despised.

      The other side is of course something not often touched on in discussions among privileged white tech geeks like the people here. which is the ongoing immiseration and impoverishment of the bulk of the middle class in America (and other countries as well, but it’s worst in the US). With real wages stagnant or falling for most people for over a generation now, budget considerations become a larger and heavier factor in people’s considerations of what to buy. People buy chinese crap not because they want to but because doing so makes it easier to afford the things they need.

      1. Yes, all those points, but I didn’t feel it was necessary to elaborate on the accelerating downward spiral of the new poor. It’s a feedback loop of disaster.
        I was observing it from the point of view of disruption theory and did it fit considering the huge scale involved.

  7. Blue Ocean strategy: Move into new markets where there is no competition yet. You escape the red ocean (full of sharks) where everybody outcompetes each other. This product or service does not need to be disruptive. You can have a blue ocean by using (combining) opportunities others didn’t use.

    Disruptive theory: You invent/offer a new product/service and couple it to new business strategy. I always mention tanning salons vs. self-tanning cremes. Both do the exact same for your “want” (looking healthy, attractive), but are completely different products with very different business strategies. They do compete though. Skype vs. landline telephone companies is another great example.

    I’d also say, in practice — not theory! — Blue Ocean strategy is more suited to businesses that rely on a package of services or mix goods/services facing ever more competition. Disruption is more common in techology or science-driven sectors. Disruptive theory is typically associated with startups, but that’s not true. It just means you can offer a substitute want for a competitive price.

    A good mix of both is Hollywood 3D movies. Now that people download a lot of movies and movie rental royalties go the way of the dodo, cinemas now offer an experience that can’t be copied through downloading.