Disruptive Innovation:
Understanding its Impact in Today's Business World

Disruptive innovation is a term that was first coined by Clayton Christensen in 1997. It refers to a type of innovation that creates a new market and value network, ultimately disrupting an existing market and displacing established market leaders. In this article, we will explore the concept of disruptive innovation and provide examples of how it has been used in various industries.

1. What is disruptive innovation?

Disruptive innovation is a type of innovation that creates a new market and value network. It usually starts by targeting a small, niche market and then gradually expands to displace established market leaders. Disruptive innovations typically have lower performance and functionality than existing products, but they are cheaper and more accessible to a wider audience. As a result, they can disrupt and eventually overtake the existing market.

2. Examples of Disruptive Innovation

  • Uber: Uber disrupted the taxi industry by offering a ride-hailing app that connects passengers with drivers. The company's use of GPS technology and the ability to track the ride from start to finish through the app made it a more reliable and convenient option than traditional taxis. Uber's business model, which is based on a fee-based system and utilizes a network of independent drivers, also made it easier and more cost-effective for drivers to join the platform.

  • Netflix: Netflix disrupted the traditional television and movie rental industry by offering a subscription-based online streaming service. The company's shift from a DVD-by-mail service to an on-demand streaming platform allowed it to expand its content offerings, including producing its own original content. This move created a new model for content distribution, one that is not limited by physical media or geography, and has changed the way people watch television and movies.
  • Airbnb: The company disrupted the traditional hospitality industry by offering a platform that connects travelers with homeowners who have extra space in their homes. Instead of staying in a hotel, travelers could now rent a room or an entire home in a local neighborhood, providing a more authentic travel experience. Airbnb's unique business model and user-friendly platform enabled it to quickly scale, leading to its dominance in the home-sharing market.
  • Amazon: Amazon disrupted the traditional retail industry by offering a vast selection of products and services through its e-commerce platform. The company's focus on providing a seamless and convenient shopping experience, including fast shipping and an easy-to-use website, has allowed it to become the go-to online retailer for millions of customers. Amazon's continued expansion into new markets and categories, including cloud computing, advertising, and entertainment, has solidified its position as one of the world's largest and most innovative companies.
  • Tesla: Tesla disrupted the automotive industry by producing electric vehicles with high performance and range, and promoting sustainable transportation. The company's focus on innovation, including developing its own battery technology and charging infrastructure, has made electric vehicles a more viable option for consumers. Tesla's mission to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy has also led to the development of solar panels and energy storage systems, further disrupting the traditional energy industry.
  • Spotify: Spotify disrupted the traditional music industry by offering a music streaming service that provides access to millions of songs on demand. The company's ability to offer a large and diverse selection of music, as well as innovative features such as personalized playlists and algorithmic recommendations, has made it a popular choice among music lovers. Spotify's business model, which is based on a combination of free, ad-supported listening and a paid subscription service, has also enabled the company to generate revenue while providing a valuable service to its users.

3. Impact of Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation has a profound impact on the business world. It can create new markets and opportunities, while also making existing products and services obsolete. Disruptive innovations can also create new ways of doing things, which can lead to increased efficiency and cost savings. However, disruptive innovation can also lead to the failure of established companies that are unable to adapt to the changing market.

4. Disruptive innovation and Business Models

Disruptive innovations often require a new business model, which is different from that of existing market leaders. For example, Uber and Airbnb, both operate based on the sharing economy model, which allows people to share their resources and services with others. This is different from the traditional business models of the taxi and hotel industries, respectively.

5. How to spot disruptive innovation

Spotting disruptive innovation is not easy but keeping an eye on new technologies and changes in customer preferences, as well as being open to new business models can help companies identify new opportunities. Additionally, it's important to pay attention to new market entrants and to track their progress to see if they are making inroads into established markets.

6. How to respond to disruptive innovation

The key to responding to disruptive innovation is to be proactive. This means anticipating changes in the market, and being willing to experiment with new technologies, business models, and approaches. Companies should also invest in research and development and focus on staying agile and adaptable.


Disruptive innovation is a powerful force in the business world, capable of creating new markets and opportunities, while also making existing products and services obsolete. Companies that want to stay ahead of the curve should pay attention to new technologies, changes in customer preferences, and new market entrants. By being proactive and experimenting with new technologies, business models, and approaches, companies can position themselves to take advantage of disruptive innovation and emerge as market leaders.

It's important to keep in mind that Disruptive innovation is unpredictable and most companies are caught off guard by it. However, companies that are able to identify and take advantage of disruptive innovations will be well-positioned for success in the future.

Curious about what new technologies might have disruptive effects? Then be sure to read our white paper on tech trends. Want to brainstorm together? Don't hesitate to contact Stretch Innovation.
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