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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

Big Bang Disruption

Big Bang Disruption

by Larry Downes, Paul Nunes

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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 t...

  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 impl...

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 the...

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.

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...

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 suppl...

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, a...

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 fictio...

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 ...

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 ri...

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 tran...

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...

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...

  • 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. Anticip...

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