Originally coined by influential Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen, it is no secret that the phrase “disruptive innovation” has gained enormous traction within popular culture at large over the last five years. But what exactly does the term mean?
What is Disruption? Defining a Complicated Term
For the most part, the idea of disruption refers to the processes by which small businesses such as tech start-ups are able to compete with established and culturally-entrenched industry leaders within their respective marketplaces.
While some of the company’s detractors may take issue with the idea, Uber arguably became a model of “disruption” when the company revolutionized the taxi industry within the United States. Similarly, Airbnb is famous for disrupting both the hotel and travel industries.
Modern Origins of Disruption
But to get to the root of innovative disruption on a global scale, it is necessary to go back to the home computer movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Simply put, companies such as Uber and Airbnb would not exist without the pioneering ideas of early home computer industry entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs.
Jobs is a prime example of disruptive innovation because of his enormous impact on our concept of entrepreneurship. To this day, the notion of an entrepreneur building a company from a small, garage-based tech start-up into a global powerhouse is intrinsically linked to Jobs’s meteoric rise within the computer industry.
Why Steve Jobs Still Matters
Prior to the rise of Apple, for example, no one seriously believed that small start-up companies could rival computer industry behemoths like IBM. At the time of Apple’s founding, moreover, computer industry executives typically wore three-piece suits and frowned on individualistic forms of expression. For decades, IBM had developed computers for businesses, universities, and government agencies. Most computer products built by IBM were not marketed to private citizens.
But Jobs changed all that; in the process, he also completely changed our notion of what an entrepreneur is or does. Since at least the 1980s, in fact, Apple’s success has made the concept of tech entrepreneurship inseparable from innovative disruption. Undoubtedly, everyone who aspires to create their own start-up in this day and age owes a debt of gratitude to Jobs’s philosophy of leadership.