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Big Bang Disruption

Big Bang Disruption

Larry Downes, Paul Nunes

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Product Lifecycle: Big Band Disruptors

There are three broadly defined characteristics that define a “Big Bang Disruptor”: 

  • Undisciplined Strategy.
  • Unconstrained Growth.
  • Unencumbered Development. 

Big Bang Disruptors don’t follow the stages of the traditional market adoption model. Forget about the gradual steps from “early adoption” to “market maturity”, it’s very much about entering the market with a big bang.


387 reads

The Four Stages Of Big Bang Disruption

  1. The Singularity – The key characteristic of this phase is the amount of failed product experiments that signal the change that’s about to arrive.
  2. The Big Bang – Users abandon old products in favour of new products and services.
  3. The Big Crunch – This phase signals a quick implosion of Big Bang Disruptors. At this stage, innovation becomes incremental and growth slows.
  4. Entropy – This is the last phase of dying industries and the stage is set for the next bunch of disruptors to enter the market.


157 reads

A Different Kind Of Product Innovation

The first key to survival is understanding that big-bang disruptions differ from more-traditional innovations not just in degree but in kind. Besides being cheaper than established offerings, they’re also more inventive and better integrated with other products and services. And today many of them exploit consumers’ growing access to product information and ability to contribute to and share it.


74 reads

The Biggest Challenge

But perhaps the biggest challenge to incumbents is that big-bang innovations come out of the left-field, combining existing technologies that don’t even seem related to your offerings to achieve a dramatically better value proposition. Big-bang disruptors may not even see you as competition.

They’re not sizing up your product line and figuring out ways to offer slightly better prices or performance with hopes of gaining a short-term advantage. Usually, they’re just tossing something shiny in the direction of your customers, hoping to attract them to a business that’s different from yours.


49 reads

Big Bang Disruptors: Jeff Bezos And Books

How did Jeff Bezos decide to enter the book business?

E-commerce, he realized, was the natural solution for a fragmented market with an enormous number of SKUs; a small, shippable product; and a stable supply chain characterized by many sellers served by a few dominant middlemen. He settled on books not because he had any expertise in publishing but because books were a coldly rational choice. They fit the tool he wanted to apply.


59 reads

Surviving Big-Bang Disruption

Big-bang disruptors are rewriting the rules of industry after industry—and the new rules hold only until the next wave of disruption comes along. There’s almost no time to adapt. Bold strategies are the only way to cope.

Big-bang disruptions usually feature not a vertically integrated supply chain but a virtually integrated one: They are manufactured and deployed via the infrastructure of the cloud. In the face of such nimble yet perversely well-resourced competition, your operational assets suddenly morph into liabilities.


46 reads

Seeing It Coming

Learning to recognize the warning signs is key to survival. But since the early market-based experiments usually fail, the familiar signals sent by low-end customers jumping ship may never arrive. You need new tools to recognize sooner than your competitors do that radical change is on the way, and that means interpreting the real meaning behind seemingly random experiments.


43 reads

Listen To The Truth Tellers

Your truth tellers may be easy to identify, if not to accept. They may be employees far below the ranks of senior management, working on the front lines of competition and change. They may not be your employees at all. Longtime customers, venture capitalists, industry analysts, and science fiction writers may all be truth tellers.

Truth tellers are often eccentric, and their lucidity can easily be mistaken for arrogance and stubbornness. Consider such difficult personalities as Steve Jobs and other technology luminaries like Bill Gates, Alan Kay, and Mark Zuckerberg.


37 reads

Slowing The Disruption

You have to ensure that disruptors can’t make money from their inventions until you’re ready to acquire them or you can win with a product of your own. You can’t stop a big-bang disruption once its unconstrained growth has taken off, but you can make it harder for its developers to cash in. Many big-bang disruptors build market share and network effects by offering their early products free. 

You can delay their profitability by lowering prices, locking in customers with long-term contracts, or forming strategic alliances with advertisers and other companies critical to your rivals’ plans.


32 reads

A Fast Escape and A Quick Pivot

It’s up to senior management to confront the reality that even long-successful strategies may be suddenly upended, requiring a radical re-creation of the business. To compete with undisciplined competitors, you have to prepare for the immediate evacuation of current markets and be ready to get rid of once-valuable assets.


34 reads

A New Kind Of Diversification

Diversification has always been a hedge against risk in cyclical industries. As industry change becomes less cyclical and more volatile, having a diverse set of businesses is vital. Fujifilm, a perennial also-ran in the film business, has survived the transformation to digital photography by transitioning to other products and services that draw on subsidiary technologies, ranging from nanotechnology to the manufacture of flat-panel TVs.


34 reads

Your Business Is Already Getting Disrupted

You can’t see big-bang disruption coming. You can’t stop it. You can’t overcome it. Old-style disruption posed the innovator’s dilemma. Big-bang disruption is the innovator’s disaster. And it will be keeping executives in every industry in a cold sweat for a long time to come.

The impact of big-bang disrupters is certainly amplified for technology- and information-intensive businesses, but most industries are at risk.


33 reads

The Good News

The good news is that big-bang disruptions hold immense potential for those who can quickly learn the new rules of unencumbered development, unconstrained growth, and undisciplined strategy. Your current business may be replaced by something more dynamic and unstable but also more profitable. And the change will come not over time but suddenly. In other words, not with a whimper—but with a bang.


37 reads

In Brief: The 12 Rules Of Big Bang Disruption

  • Rule 1. Consult Your Truth-Tellers 
  • Rule 2. Pinpoint Your Market Entry 
  • Rule 3. Launch Seemingly Random Market Experiments 
  • Rule 4. Survive Catastrophic Success
  • Rule 5. Capture Winner-Take-All Markets 
  • Rule 6. Create Bullet Time
  • Rule 7. Anticipate Saturation
  • Rule 8. Shed Assets Before They Become Liabilities 
  • Rule 9. Quit While You’re Ahead 
  • Rule 10. Escape Your Own Black Hole 
  • Rule 11. Become Someone Else’s Components 
  • Rule 12. Move to a New Singularity


47 reads



Copywriter in advertising


In recent years a new—disquieting—form of disruptive innovation has emerged. It doesn’t follow the classic model, entering the market as a cheap substitute to a high-end product and then gradually increasing in quality and moving up the customer chain. Instead, the innovation beats incumbents on both price and quality right from the start and quickly sweeps through every customer segment. This kind of “big bang” disruption can devastate entire product lines virtually overnight

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