What is Disruptive Technology and How is it Changing the World?
The term ‘disruptive’ has become a staple vocabulary in start-ups, and it has been used in nearly every industry from the automobile industry to e-commerce. Clayton Christensen, a Harvard professor, first coined the term ‘disruptive innovation’ in the early 1990’s, referring to the businesses that strive to impact the world. Think of how human beings have communicated over the centuries: from hand-written letters, to fax machines, to telephones and pagers, to cellphones, and now smartphones. This one change in our lives vastly redirected the entire industry.
What is disruptive technology?
Disruptive technology is an innovation, let it be a product or technology, that introduces or changes how businesses, consumers, and industries operate. It proposes a better solution that can be massively utilized. Disruptive technology can improve a market or introduce a new market, providing consumers with better quality, use, and efficiency. It can also disrupt user behavior and consumer habits.
We may think of these two terms interchangeably: disruptive technology and disruptive innovation. How are they similar and how are they different? Disruptive innovation often refers to the creation of a new product or service that challenges more traditional and common business structures. Disruptive technology refers to the technology itself that’s used in the new product or service that’s being used to challenge traditional business structures. That’s the undermining difference. The similarity of the two is that disruptive innovation will drive the business forward and disrupt the market, and disruptive technologies are what drives that innovation forward.
How does it impact our lives and the market?
Disruptive technology impacts and influences our lives every single day. Even if the changes are subtle, you’re able to see how people’s habits, ways of living, spending habits, and behaviors have changed. In a blink of an eye, we went from going to the library to purchase a book, to going on a hand-sized phone and ordering a book without leaving your chair on Amazon. Our day-to-day lives have been changed drastically because of the small innovations that added up throughout the decades.
Disruptive technology also transforms the current market and its respective industries. It has the potential to completely derail the traditional business model by using their growing innovations within existing systems. Products that are based on disruptive technology are often easier to use, minimalistic, and better-performing. In turn, the market and industry would have to do some “catch-up” to be able to compete with each other and regain control of their users and market share.
What are the pros and cons of disruptive technology?
There are several advantages and disadvantages of disruptive technology, as we can tell from history. Here are some of the pros and cons.
- Faster, more efficient, and prettier. Think of the iPhone. This is probably the most disruptive and massively-used product that happened in the last two decades. As Apple created its own industry back in 2007, many users flocked to buy the sleek, minimalistic smartphone that put everyone in a frenzy. The iPhone was something completely new and easy to understand; an entire world at our fingertips. It made people’s lives easier.
- Profitable businesses. More start-ups arise from forming disruptive technology, and by establishing themselves as a leader in their industry, they have the opportunity to gain a foothold compared to other companies in the same industry.
- Room for improvement. As the technology itself improves, companies may start to look within their own business models and operations for improvement to match their competition. If companies successfully incorporate a specific piece of disruptive technology into their products and teach their existing users how to use it, they’re able to not only hold on to their existing users, but to buy in new users as well.
- Security, safety, and privacy concerns. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality are just some of the new innovations and concepts that have gotten everyone divided. People may confuse reality with virtual reality, or fear that artificial intelligence may attack our job opportunities or digital privacy.
- Unproven technology. When new ideas are introduced, it usually takes a while to successfully find its place in the market and industry. It usually takes years to fully transform the global mindset of a new piece of technology, and sometimes the public may doubt its potential.
- Compliance, legal, and ethical problems. Since disruptive technology is more often than not a new idea that has never been introduced, certain standard procedures have never been implemented on them before. This can lead to a lot of compliance, legal, and ethical problems that challenge the product and the mission of the company that produces the product.
Examples of disruptive technology that changed our lives
- Netflix. Watching movies and streaming videos has never been easier and more convenient. From grand openings in the movie theater to popcorn-filled couches, Netflix has transformed the way the public views entertainment. Thus, it went from being a niche to a commodity.
- Airbnb. Nobody knew what could replace hotels. Hotels and resorts offer luxury and free time. Airbnbs offer comfort and quaint ambiences. This was a market that they established which created thousands of job and work opportunities.
- Blockchain. Blockchain technology is tied mostly to cryptocurrency. It’s a decentralized ledger that records every transaction between users. Blockchain itself challenges traditional financial institutions and how traditional banks operate.
- Spotify. Music streaming went from jukeboxes to Limewire to Spotify. To be able to have an almost 0-second delay upon playing music was unheard of nearly ten years ago. Spotify has changed how we search for music and how artists view music.
What disruptive technology should we look out for in 2023?
There are tons of other examples of disruptive technology in different industries, but as we’re just beginning 2023, here are some of the biggest players in the game.
- AI everywhere. ChatGPT, as everyone has heard of by now, took the world by storm a few weeks ago. Artificial intelligence and generative artificial intelligence will grow exponentially, and it can be implemented to anything from electric and automated vehicles to education algorithms.
- Blockchain, Web3.0, and NFTs. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are made from blockchain technology that can represent real-world assets in digital form. They are a crucial creation in which investors and buyers have greater transparency and liquidity opportunities.
- Green technology and sustainability. Although this technology isn’t new, companies, brands, and consumers have increasingly paid more attention and placed more priority to reduce their carbon footprint. It not only reduces costs for companies, but also creates a better brand-image for the public.
Disruptive technology is everywhere. You see it in movies, TV shows, and literature. Remember the movie ‘Back to the Future’? There were flying cars by the start of the year 2020. Innovative technology is growing at an exponential speed, and humans are adapting to it faster than history’s imagined.
*The opinions reflected in this article are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect any official positions or claims by Acer Inc.
About Janice Lin: Janice is a contributing writer for Acer with a background in marketing and copywriting. She's passionate about literature, tech, blockchain, and creative trends. She has worked with several clients to grow and position their brands internationally.