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The Innovator's Dilemma

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Title: The Innovator's Dilemma  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Clayton M. Christensen, Innovation, Discovery-driven planning, Management books, Disruptive innovation
Collection: 1997 Books, Innovation, Management Books, Works About Information Economics
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Innovator's Dilemma

The Innovator's Dilemma
Author Clayton Christensen
Country United States
Language English
Genre Business theory
Publisher Harvard Business Review Press; 1st edition (May 1, 1997)
Publication date
Followed by ''The Innovator's Solution''

The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, generally referred to as The Innovator's Dilemma, is the most well-known work of the Harvard professor and businessman Clayton Christensen.


  • Subject matter 1
  • Reception 2
    • Criticism 2.1
  • Impact on business world 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Subject matter

First published in 1997, Christensen's book suggests that successful companies can put too much emphasis on customers' current needs, and fail to adopt new technology or business models that will meet their customers' unstated or future needs. He argues that such companies will eventually fall behind. Christensen calls the anticipation of future needs "disruptive innovation," and gives examples involving the personal computer industry, milkshakes, and steel minimills.

As the title states, the innovator’s ‘dilemma’ comes from the idea that businesses or organizations will reject innovations based on the fact that customers cannot currently use them, thus allowing these ideas with great potential to go to waste. It goes into great detail the way in which ‘successful’ companies adhered to customer needs, adopted new technologies and took rivals into consideration, but still ended up losing dominance in their market.


Shortly after the release of the book, Christensen “received the Global Business Book Award for The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Economist named it as one of the six most important books about business ever written”.[1] It also received the Global Business Book Award as the best business book of the year (1997).[2]


One criticism of the book by Ben Thompson[3] is that the theory applies best to businesses with business customers. Thompson says that consumers are not as rational and single-minded as business customers, and hence are less susceptible to disruption. Thompson points to the iPhone as a consumer product that is not easily disrupted by a low-end disruption; Christensen maintains that the iPhone and Apple are good candidates for disruption.[4]

Impact on business world

Christensen at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2013
The term disruptive technologies was first described in depth with this book by Christensen; but the term was later changed to ‘disruptive innovation’ in a later book (The Innovator's Solution). A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network that will eventually disrupt an already existing market and replace an existing product.[5]

The Innovator's Dilemma proved popular; not only was it reprinted,[6] but a follow-on book entitled "The Innovator's Solution" was published.[7] His books "Disrupting Class"[8] about education and "The Innovator's Prescription"[9] about health care both utilize ideas from the Innovator's Dilemma.


  1. ^ "Aiming high", Jun 30th 2011.
  2. ^ Innosight,(2014). Clayton Christensen-Innosight Co-founder. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Oct. 2014].
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ WorldHeritage, (2014). Disruptive innovation. [online] Available at: https://articles/Disruptive_innovation#CITEREFChristensen2003 [Accessed 24 Oct. 2014].
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^

Further reading

External links

  • website
  • website
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