Disruption has become a term of fashion. While overused, disruption refers to an important phenomenon; the ways in which certain new technologies bring about profound changes to markets and society, thereby devaluing established business practices. In this essay we demonstrate that the dominant theory, Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation, fails to account for the richness of this phenomenon. We propose to consider disruption akin to a Kuhnian revolution. By drawing direct parallels between paradigmatic shifts in scientific fields and industry disruption, we come to understand disruption as a shift in understanding that fundamentally alters what counts as customer value or product quality and as a result puts the industry on a new trajectory. By drawing on a music industry example, we illustrate that it is only with hindsight that a causal deterministic story of disruption emerges as brought about by invention of a particular technology.
Riemer, Kai and Johnston, Robert, "Making Sense of Disruption: A Kuhnian Analysis" (2016). ACIS 2016 Proceedings. 6.