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Innovators' Dilemma or Innovators' Delight

Posted By: Dick Schutz on January 20, 2009
The distinction between “disruptive technology” and “sustaining technology” was made by Christensen in 1997 in his best-selling book, “The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business.” Well, the book sold a lot of copies, but it didn’t exactly change the way much business was done. A decade or so later, Christensen and colleague fork the “disruptive/sustaining” distinction into the education sector, but dilemma has now morphed into delight. That is, the fundamental matter of technology has been dropped, and all the chips are now on the “disruptive” side of the table.

Hmm. Natriello’s review is better than the book. That doesn’t happen very often, but as with movies and books, it does happen.

The fallacy in the distinction is that it can be applied post-facto, but it falls flat when applied a-priori. If organizations could anticipate that an “innovation” would prove to be adaptive in the future, they would internalize it as a “sustaining” contributor to organizational advance.
There are “beware” signs that should be pasted on the pages in addition to those Natriello identifies, but detailing them here wouldn’t add to the review.

If the test question regarding innovation is “Dilemma or Delight?” the keyed response is “Dilemma.” That answer holds as well in the education sector as in the business sector.

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 Innovators' Dilemma or Innovators' Delight by Dick Schutz on January 20, 2009
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