There is a science behind Technology Disruption.
While the rest of the world is aware of disruption, but unable to plan for it, ambitious entrepreneurs who are familiar with its laws use these rules to their advantage.
Sociologist and communication theorist Everett Rogers broke technology disruption down to its principal five elements more than five decades ago in his pioneering work Diffusion of Innovation.
The five stages that Everett defined are knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation, and confirmation.
But these don’t map perfectly to the way disruption works in today’s complex industries and environments. A more precise, four-stage process does the job better.
Mapping the Progress of Technology Disruption
Systems – whether they are governments, corporations, or individual technologies – grow more complex over time as they respond to more and more individual needs. This taxes the resources that each system draws upon to meet those needs, leading the way for more direct, self-sustaining systems that fit into the niche created by each branch of the larger, more complex system.
This environment creates the conditions for today’s disruptive technologies in four stages:
- Disruption of Incumbent. First, consumers become aware of the benefits of innovation. It’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when technology becomes disruptive, but this is the critical moment when bet-the-business investment is needed. According to Everett Rogers, about 2.5% of the total userbase will be part of the first wave of innovators. Incumbents generally ignore the new, disruptive product or solution because its userbase is too small and too niche-oriented to represent a real threat.
- Rapid, Linear Evolution. Once the disruptive product or solution begins filling out its niche user base, the product creators can begin the rapid linear evolution phase. This is where the question of vision comes into play. This vision influences the initial movement around the product or solution and it defines the efforts of those people who become its first major wave of legitimate users. This is often where historical “told you so” moments occur, as incumbents dismiss the new technology and give creators every reason to believe they are going in the wrong direction. However, disruption establishes a new paradigm, which eventually changes the parameters at play.
- Appealing Convergence. This could also be called market redefinition. When the market starts calling the disruptive technology a full-scale replacement for the incumbent technology, users wake up to the unrealized potentials that they have been missing out on.
- Complete Reimagination. Once the disruptive technology establishes itself as the primary go-to solution for consumers’ problems, the process of complete reimagination begins. This is where a legacy incumbent can define itself against the new order, or where it can adapt to its place within the new environment created by the disruptive technology.
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