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Book Review: The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton M. Christensen
I just finished a fabulous book called The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business about how established companies try to and often fail to deal with new and innovative products and ideas. Calling these new ideas “disruptive technology” he explains how these ideas and products often push aside and often crush the existing companies.

The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen

A disruptive innovation is a term often used in business or technology that describes innovations that improves existing products in ways that are unexpected. He describes how successful companies are successful because of the relationships that they have in house with their managers and employees and with their customers. Companies and their customers are unable to deal with the new ideas because they are so ingrained with the existing ones.

The new ideas and products are usually simpler, have less features, much lower profit margins and usually need a very different customer base to be successful. Christensen takes us through the entire process with many suggestions and insights. This book gives you a lot to think about.

I found this book very interesting and relatable to the changes I am currently experiencing in the print side of graphic design as the world shifts from paper to the web. Christensen who is a professor at Harvard and a businessman, walks us through the process of a disruptive innovation using actual case studies. This book was originally published in 1997 so the examples are a little dated but the theory and conclusions are dead on. The book focuses on disc drive technology, hydraulic excavators and backhoes, and the mini steel mill industries. Writing about the failure of many businesses that focus heavily on their existing customers while ignoring what is coming up behind them. But one of the points brought out in this book is that it isn’t always their fault that they don’t see it. It is more the way businesses are structured internally and with their customers.

Christensen does write about companies that do successfully handle the transition from one technology to the next but they usually do it by setting up an independent business group away from the major company. Basically a group that isn’t tied to the same profit margins, customers and goals of the existing business. A start-up that was able to develop and grow the new ideas on their own terms.

I really enjoyed this book a lot and it has give me much to think about. I recommend it.
To read more about disruptive innovation check out this excellent article on Wikipedia,

The book is available on (affiliate link)
The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business