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The Disruption Dilemma$
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Joshua Gans

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034487

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034487.001.0001

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What Is Disruption?

What Is Disruption?

(p.13) 2 What Is Disruption?
The Disruption Dilemma

Joshua Gans

The MIT Press

Disruption arises when great firms fail precisely because they continued to make choices that had originally made them great. It is important to distinguish this from other causes of failure (e.g., complacency or incompetence) and also from the over-use of the term “disruption.” To do this, the chapter is anchored in the case of Blockbuster video, which is one of the most often discussed poster children for disruption in recent memory. Here the author shows, contrary to many commentators, Blockbuster was always early in thinking about exploiting digital opportunities but the timing was never right given its traditional business model. To understand disruption, we identify its intellectual origins. The chapter discusses how each of these thinkers would have examined the Blockbuster case as a thought experiment, demonstrating that the case itself has a richer and more subtle narrative than ‘Netflix destroyed Blockbuster’. In particular, it is far from clear that this would not have happened even if Netflix did not exist.

Keywords:   Disruption, S-curve, Creative destruction, Netflix, Blockbuster

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