What does it mean?
A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.
Disruptive innovation is not purely technological advancement and does not happen in a vacuum. To disrupt a process that is embedded in society and behaviours requires a profound understanding of the context of the process itself and the cultures affiliated with it. Disruption in one field can have a ripple effect disrupting other sectors activities and processes.
If we think of the introduction of the steam engine in the textile industry in the late eighteenth century, for example, or the advent of early twentieth century home appliances, we realize how innovation has changed our lives and our history in countless ways which individually may seem marginal but when taken together reveal the extent of the changes we have created and experienced.
In this context, innovations such as the quantum computer, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, but also technologies associated with genome-editing and regenerative medicine, are all disruptive in their own rights and may have countless derivations not yet imaginable in the future.