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Disrupting Class

Clayton Christiansen

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Apple originally sold its computers as toys for children and hobbyists. The leading maker of mini-computers, DEC, listened carefully to its best customers, who told them that personal computers could not do any of the work that they needed computers for. So DEC got message that they didn't need to worry about threat.

But personal computers rapidly improved, and within a decade they were doing tasks that had previously needed minicomputers. So why did DEC and other makers ignore this?

But in this interim period, the new tech is unattractive to the established compay bc the margins are lower and their best customers can't use them. For DEC it made more sense to put R & D investment into making their existing computers faster and bigger, bc that's what their customers told them they wanted.

Apple didn't need to appeal to DEC customers, it needed to delight people who didn't have a computer.

To succeed, disruptive technologies must be applied to areas where the alternative is nothing. In fact, selecting these areas is more impt than the innovative tech itself.

When an innovator inside a big company comes up with a new idea, he quickly finds that the suggestion must be (heavily) modified to fit in with the business model of the organisation, rather than the market the innovator had envisaged.

When transistor invented, vacuum tube manufacturers like RCA saw potential and licensed it. But the transistor wasn't powerful enough to run big TVs and radios. So they spent a billion dollars trying to make transistors work in their existing market.

While they were busy doing that, new markets appeared. Firts, in 1952, was a small hearing aid, where the lower power consumption was a plus. Then 1955 Sony released first battery powered pocket radio. In contrast to tabletop radios of 50s, the transistor was tinny and reception was poor. But Sony marketed it to teenagers who just wanted to listen to music without parents supervision. Then in 1959 Sony released portable TV. Again they didn't try to compete with big boys. Their market was people who otherwise cdn't afford a TV.

By the late 60's solid state electronics had improved to the point where ir cd handle the power needed by bigger products, and RCA, just like DEC, found that their market had vaporised.

Schools have spent billions on putting computers into classroom, with virtually no impact on how teachers teach and learners learn. Same reason as above - schools don't want to change their model. Teachers have implemented computers in ways that sustain their teaching methods rather than disrupting them.

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