Are there really high-end Disruptive Innovations?

A colleague recently raised interesting questions about the notion of high-end disruptive innovation and that has inspired me to write this blog post. While I have my opinion on this topic, this is by no means a definitive post. Your comments and opinions are also welcomed.

Before you read further, take a pause and consider if you can come up with 2-3 examples of high-end disruptive innovations.

  • .Example 1…?
  • ..Example 2…?

Not easy hun? Let me guess, Apple had something to do with one of the examples you came up with, right? Almost everyone I have asked gives one Apple product as their example. If Apple was not one of your examples then that’s impressive or rather, I’m very curious.

If you did not come up with any examples, it is understandable because I have not attempted to present what really is meant by high-end disruptive innovation. To explain what this is, let’s begin with Christensen’s initial and also popular description of what disruptive innovation is from his 1997 book – Innovators Dilemma (or disruptive technology as he called it then…). According to him, the concept describes the phenomenon were a product or service which initially has simple application or lower performance/cost  (which are attractive attributes for the bottom of a market) but then gradually improves on this dimensions till it gains enough market traction to displace established enterprises/competitors.

It is easy to see that this description of disruptive innovation does not include disruptions occurring from the top or high end of the market. On the contrary, it readily refers to a form of disruptive innovation termed – Low-End Disruption. So if it is this clear, why bother about talking about high-end disruptions? Well, you see, the thing is the definition of disruptive innovation has advanced significantly since 1997. A number of scholars including Christensen himself have and are continuously developing the concept. Notable contributions that have talked about disruptive innovation from the high end include Govindarajan, Kopalle and Daneels; Schmidt and Druehl; Sood and Tellis among many others. Conversely and logically in contrast to the low-end disruption, the high-end disruption is when the disruptive innovation does not begin as simple or lower performing or lower priced and it is attractive to the high end of the existing markets.

Now despite these academic advances, it is logical to be skeptical about this one because not many examples come to mind readily where the disruption started initially with high performance and/or at higher cost. In fact if we consider it closely the occurrence of this type of disruption looks more like an exception rather than a frequently occurring phenomenon.

But if you consider this from your own perspective – What example comes to your mind as high-end disruption?

TwitterAbayomi Baiyere 



2 thoughts on “Are there really high-end Disruptive Innovations?

  1. Would Tesla Motors with their model X be an example of a high-end innovation that has a chance to be disruptive?
    How about Google’s self-driving cars?

  2. How about different household machines, long ago washing machines but now perhaps robotic vacuum cleaners etc.?

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