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The Elements of Disruption

by Hank Barnes  |  October 10, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

Last week, I did a presentation at the Gartner Symposium and IT Expo on “Lessons Learned from the Digital Giants.”   Much of the content for the presentation came from research that a team of analysts at Gartner have developed around disruption.  Out of that work emerged a key idea that really hit home for me, and based on the feedback, the audience.  (David Yockelson, who developed the idea, will be presenting on the topic at both the  Gold Coast and Barcelona Symposiums for the Select program).

In looking at examples of significant disruptions, David developed, and verified, a key premise.  Disruption is NEVER solely about technology.  This is a sobering fact for all the tech vendors who endlessly tout their “disruptive technology”.

As David and the team looked deeper, they discovered that disruptions typically occurred through a combination of planned activities, that leverage several different elements.

  • Technology – While not the sole element, technology innovations often play a significant role
  • Business – Shifts in business models and practices that change the rules of buying and selling
  • Industry – Identifying changing industry dynamics, or regulations (or sometimes ignoring them)
  • Society –  Leveraging societal trends that provide new ways to build awareness, interest, and “tribes”
Source: Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner, Inc.

These are the Elements of Disruption.

For all of the significant disruption examples a variety of these elements, often all four, were used.   If you go back to the days of the iPod and iTunes, there was, in my assessment, a technology component (the devices, iTunes, and the overall experience), business (buy by the song with instant access), industry (the early concerns that digital music was introducing ), and society (from an openness to new forms of music access triggered by Napster to the ubiquitous white headphones that signaled “coolness”).  The team looks at other examples in detail in their research that was highlighted in a recent Gartner special report.

But the bottom line, again, is that technology alone is never disruptive.   Vendors must recognize this and look to leverage other elements (or help their customers leverage other elements) in combination with technology in order to truly cause a fundamental shift in behaviors and expectations.



Category: go-to-market  

Tags: business  disruption  elements  industry  society  technology  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
5+ years at Gartner
30 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to positioning, storytelling, the technology customer life cycle, and customer experience. Read Full Bio

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