Keen On… Big Bang Disruption: How The Innovator’s Dilemma Has Become The Innovator’s Nightmare

A couple of years ago, I had Clay Christensen from Harvard Business School on the show talking about his famous theory of the innovator’s dilemma. But just as Christensen’s theory suggests that companies become prisoners of their own innovation, so this theory itself has just been blown up by Accenture’s Larry Downes and Paul Nunes in their controversial new book Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in an Age of Devastating Innovation.

According to Downes, the innovator’s dilemma has now been replaced by what he calls the “innovator’s nightmare”. Today’s new technology products are so much better and cheaper than legacy products that they can literally wipe out old industries overnight. Startups, Downes says, can become mature companies very quickly and entrepreneurs need to not only to prepare themselves for overnight success but also to sell out quickly before they are inevitably overtaken by a revolutionary new product (Snapchat might take note).

Given the revolutionary speed of today’s tech market, Downes says, established companies need to focus on acquisition rather than in-house development of new products. Presumably then, Downes would approve of Google’s recent buying spree of artificial intelligence companies like Boston Dynamics, Nest and DeepMind. And he’d probably also encourage Apple to seriously consider acquiring Tesla so that it can continue to maintain its role as the biggest bang disruptor of them all.