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Book Review: The Innovator’s Dilemma

Book Review

The Innovator’s Dilemma

Title:  The Innovator’s Dilemma – The Revolutionary Book that will Change the way you do Business

Author:  Clayton M. Christensen (2011).

Format and Publisher:  Paperback – 286 pages.   Published by Harper Collins.

Review:  © Wayne Mallinson (15 December 2015) at

the innovators dilemma

Book Strengths and Structure

I was pleasantly surprised when I read Clayton Christensen’s book ‘the Innovator’s Dilemma’, now in its first paperback format, and forth instantiation.   I like a book that is well-researched, covers an important topic, and that is easy to digest.

The book has two parts:  Part one explains how great companies fail when challenged by disruptive innovations, despite nearly always succeeding with sustaining innovations, even with radical rather than incremental innovations.  In part two, he explains how managers can successfully gain from the disruptive technological change, rather than be unseated by it.

Clayton teases out patterns of failure in the four chapters of part one.   He carefully attributes common causes of company failure, which he discovered when analysing the frenetic hard disk drive industry.  He then also shows the same patterns in the much slower, mechanical excavator industry – failure in slow motion so to speak.



Principles of Disruptive Innovation

Five important principles are put forward, and Clayton argues that working against these, almost certainly spells doom for a company when tackling disruptive technologies to their industries.  He manages to convince the reader that this failure occurs precisely because large successful companies’ key competencies become their disabilities when it comes to countering disruptive technological threats.  For example, they tend to continue to listen to their current customers who trap them in inaction, or wrong-footed action, as needs subtly change in markets.  I’d love to list these principles, but you would be better off reading the whole book to get the weight of its logic.

Managing Disruption

In part two, Clayton details how companies can manage these disruptive technology breakthroughs that literally change the game and the normal rules.  Maybe the new game already has the different rules that large successful companies are often defeated by.   If you wish to keep your competitive position as a large successful organisation – I’d suggest you read the book and pass it to your strategic team.

How to Fail or to Benefit

Without being aware of these established principles and how to implement solutions that work with them, you will make the fatal mistake of many a forerunner.  You will detect and consider the early disruptive upstart technology, and then, with your customer’s advice and marketing team’s direction, you will lose your future by acting against the principles put forward in ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’.

Buy the book and do your homework.   You will enjoy it, and maybe save your organisation.


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