What is Disruptive Innovation? Where’s It Happening Now?

UPDATE: Nov 2/19 | This post is under content review.

I’m of the opinion that disruption needs to occur on an ongoing basis in order to innovate and improve. Disruption occurs within industries, companies, geographies, departments and in our lives. 

When positive disruption happens we see new business opportunities, better services and new business models evolve. We also kick to the curb injustice, bad business models, overpaid professionals and out of touch companies.

Today, when we see disruption and innovation in action we think of Uber for transportation, Airbnb for accommodation, Netflix for entertainment and Theranos for lab testing.  But what exactly is disruptive innovation?

What is Disruptive Innovation?

Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.

The Innovators Dilemma

Read Clayton’s book the Innovators Dilemma in order to better understand the complex and critically important relationships between technological change and business success. It’s a must read for any professional and entrepreneur in the technology industry. The explainer video below provides a good overview.

Where is Disruptive Innovation Happening Now?

This is where theory, academia and real world examples meet in the form of links to stories, articles and videos where disruptive innovation is happening by sector.

Cross Sectors/Industries

=> Apr 13, 2016 | The Fourth Industrial Revolution | World Economic Forum

=> Apr 1, 2016 | Which Industries are the Most Digital and Why? | Harvard Business Review | Note: Registration may be required)


=> Mar 30, 2016 | The Next Economy | Knowledge at Wharton | Note: Interview with Alec Ross author of “The Industries of the Future” recipient of 2016 Tribecca Disruptive Innovation Awards Book of the Year

=> Feb 26, 2016 | Transparency is Key to Open Innovation | R&D Magazine

=> Jan 19, 2016 | The Fourth Industrial Revolution | Al Arabiya News

=> Jan 19, 2016 | An Interview with Futurist Thornton May | Frank Diana’s Blog

=> Jan 14, 2016 | An Interview with Futurist Gerd Leonhard | Frank Diana’s Blog

=> Dec 7, 2015 | Innovation Locked Up or Blocked? | LinkedIn Pulse

=> Dec 4, 2016 | The 10 Most Disruptive Technologies of 2015

=> Nov 29, 2015 | My 25 Most Disruptive Brands Of 2015 | Forbes CMO Network

=> Nov 27, 2015 | APIs – the core of a new economy, really? | disruptive views

=> Nov 11, 2015 | What Should Digital Transformation Mean To Your Business? | Forbes CMO Network

=> Sep 1, 2015 | How to Jump-Start a Digital Transformation | The Boston Consulting Group.

=> Apr 1, 2015 | The Key to Enduring Growth Is Strategic Transformation | Insights by Stanford Business

=> Sep 2009 | Never is a long time (Disruptive Technologies and the Web) | CWI and W3C


=> Jul 13, 2016 | Internet of Things as the next Industrial Revolution – How it will change the industry in 2016 | Huffington Post

=> Jul 7, 2016 | 5 Technologies on the Rise—A CIO’s Summer Guide to Innovation  | Dialexa

=> Jun 27, 2016 | How the Digital Age presents huge investment opportunities — for those willing to embrace them | Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association

=> Jun 25, 2016 | What is Disruptive Innovation?  | World Economic Forum

=> Jun 23, 2016 | Industry Disruption Analysis: A Role for Risk Management | Global Association of Risk Professionals

=> Jun 16, 2016 | Uber, disruptive innovation, and regulated markets | Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation

=> Apr 4, 2016 | 7th Annual Disruptive Innovation Awards | Tribecca Disruptive Innovation Awards

Accommodation and food services

This sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing short-term lodging and complementary services to travellers, vacationers and others, in facilities such as hotels, motor hotels, resorts, motels, casino hotels, bed and breakfast accommodations, housekeeping cottages and cabins, recreational vehicle parks and campgrounds, hunting and fishing camps, and various types of recreational and adventure camps. [Source]

=> Jul 2016 | An Airbnb mindset: Insight from a master of disruptive innovation  | Global Intelligence for the CIO


This sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in retailing merchandise, generally without transformation, and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise. [Source]

=> Aug 13, 2016 | How Amazon Arranges its Warehouses | Tech Insider

=> Jun 29, 2016 | How Stitch Fix Uses Big Data to Disrupt Your Closet | Bloomberg West


This sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in the chemical, mechanical or physical transformation of materials or substances into new products. [Source]

=> Dec 9, 2015 | The Automotive Ambitions of Samsung and Apple |

Transportation and Warehousing

This sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in transporting passengers and goods, warehousing and storing goods, and providing services to these establishments. [Source]

=> Aug 26, 2016 |  Uber Loses $1.2 Billion by Q2 2016; Is This the End of the Sharing Economy or a New Era of Loss-Leading Pioneers? | LinkedIn Pulse

=>  Aug 18, 2016 | Uber acquires Otto to lead Uber’s self-driving car effort | TechCrunch

=> June 7, 2016 | How a 30K-member Facebook group filled the void left by Uber and Lyft in Austin | Techcrunch

=> May 25, 2016 | Mississauga council caves on a key demand to Uber | Toronto Star

=> May 24, 2016 | VW invests $300M in Uber rival Gett in new ride-sharing partnership | TechCrunch

=> May 9, 2016 | The Evolution of the DHL Parcelcopter |

=> Jan 26, 2016 | The Connected Airport: The Time Is Now | The Boston Consulting Group

=> Nov 16, 2015 | Uber is not ‘genuinely disruptive’, says Clayton Christensen | The Financial Times | NOTE: you may have to fill out a survey to read the article

Health Care and Social Assistance

This sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in providing health care by diagnosis and treatment, providing residential care for medical and social reasons, and providing social assistance, such as counselling, welfare, child protection, community housing and food services, vocational rehabilitation and child care, to those requiring such assistance. [Source]

Finance and Insurance

This sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in financial transactions (that is, transactions involving the creation, liquidation, or change in ownership of financial assets) or in facilitating financial transactions.[Source]

=> April 22, 2016 | Golden Copy: The Blockchain is Just a Database | Waters Technology

=> April 11, 2016 | BI Intelligence is launching new research on the massive disruption coming to financial services | Business Insider

=> Feb 11, 2016 | Wall Street Is Trying to Beat Silicon Valley at Its Own Game Banks race to beat the patent trolls—and Silicon Valley. | Bloomberg Businessweek

=> Jan 24, 2016 | Biggest Global Banks at Davos: We’re All Fintech Innovators Now | Bloomberg Business

=> 2015 | The disruption of banking | The Economist – Intelligence Unit

=> Dec 11, 2015 | Walmart Pay Is Here and These Three Companies Can’t Be Happy About It | re/code

=> Dec 2, 2015 | Manulife Offers $10,000 Prize to Innovators in its First Public Hackathon | News Release (CNW) | NOTE: Part of their push to innovate and disrupt the Insurance industry.

=> Dec 2, 2015 | The Disruption of Banking | The Economist (sponsored by HP)

=> Dec 2, 2015 | The future of the bank branch is in trouble — here’s why | BusinessInsider | NOTE: Millennials don’t visit branches.

=> Nov 26, 2015 | Ex-Barclays boss: This is the “Uber moment” for banks | The Memo

=> Oct 28, 2015 | Why Apple Pay’s Canadian launch bypassed banks | Globe and Mail

=> 2014 | The Millennial Disruption Index | Scratch (Media Viacom Networks) | PDF Version

Professional, scientific and technical services

This subsector comprises establishments primarily engaged in activities in which human capital is the major input. These establishments make available the knowledge and skills of their employees, often on an assignment basis. [Source]

=> Mar 19, 2015 | Legal market ripe for disruptive innovation | Lawyers Weekly

Information and Communications Technology

This category comprises all NAICS codes that relate to information and communication technology industries. This includes portions of the following sectors: ‘Manufacturing’ (NAICS 31-33), ‘Wholesale trade’ (NAICS 41), ‘Information and cultural industries’ (NAICS 51), ‘Professional, scientific and technical services’ (NAICS 54) and ‘Other services (except public administration)’ (NAICS 81). [Source]

=> Dec 9, 2015 | Flipping the Switch on the Internet: Get Ready for Li-Fi | Bloomberg Business

=> Nov 24, 2015 | Beecham Research Warns IoT “Overhyped” | Disruptive Views | NOTE: This is a good article that puts “IoT” into perspective.]

=> Nov 16, 2015 | The President Of Xerox Innovation Group Discusses Her Methods And Workplace Diversity | Forbes Tech

=> Oct 2015 | How New Technology Helps Blind People Explore the World  | NOTE: Is this an example of “augmented reality”?

Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction

This sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in extracting naturally occurring minerals. These can be solids, such as coal and ores; liquids, such as crude petroleum; and gases, such as natural gas. The term mining is used in the broad sense to include quarrying, well operations, milling (for example, crushing, screening, washing, or flotation) and other preparation customarily done at the mine site, or as a part of mining activity. Establishments engaged in exploration for minerals, development of mineral properties and mining operations are included in this sector. Establishments performing similar activities, on a contract or fee basis, are also included. [Source]

=> Aug 19, 2016 | Lockheed Martin Files Aatent for a Synthetic Diamond 3D Printer | 3D Printing Industry


This sector comprises establishments primarily engaged in operating electric, gas and water utilities. These establishments generate, transmit, control and distribute electric power; distribute natural gas; treat and distribute water; operate sewer systems and sewage treatment facilities; and provide related services, generally through a permanent infrastructure of lines, pipes and treatment and processing facilities. [Source]

The Evolution (and refinement) of the Concept

Below are links to stories, articles, videos and other sources that further explain and explore “Disruptive Innovation”.

=> Oct 2, 2001 | Clayton M. Christensen, The Thought Leader Interview | strategy+business

=> May 25, 2016 | The Three Things That Innovation Requires  | Tim Sanders, Best selling business author and former Yahoo CSO

=> May 24, 2016 | The Disruptive Innovation Business Model  | Assistant Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, Rory McDonald

=> Dec 7, 2015 | Innovation Locked Up or Blocked?  | LinkedIn Pulse

=> Dec 2015 | What Is Disruptive Innovation? | Harvard Business Review | Note: Asks the question: Is Uber a disruptive innovation? Also, was available to me as a free preview on HBR site. The video below is from the HBR post.

=> Nov 28, 2015 | The Fuss Over ‘Disruption’ | LinkedIn Pulse | NOTE: asserts that all companies need to be re-inventing themselves.

=> Nov 16, 2015 | The President Of Xerox Innovation Group Discusses Her Methods And Workplace Diversity | Forbes/Tech (NOTE: Annoying ads)

=> Jan 25, 2015 | What disruptive innovation means | The Economist | NOTE: provides various examples

=> Feb 16, 2013 | What “Disrupt” Really Means | TechCrunch | NOTE: written by former Venture Capitalist

=> Mar 30, 2012 | [Video] Disruptive Innovation Defined | HBR | NOTE: Interview with Clayton Christensen

=> Oct 9, 2011 | Disruptive Innovations That Turned Their Markets Upside Down [INFOGRAPHIC] | Mashable