SMR articles on Disruptive Innovation and Platforms

The Sprint 2002 issue of Sloan Management Review has 2 articles I found interesting. The first is on “Disruptive Innovation” by Christensen and others, and talks of how to build disruptive businesses. The second is by Michael Cusumano and Annabelle Gower on “The Elements of Platform Leadership”, which discusses how companies like Intel, Microsoft and Cisco build “platforms” for industry domination.

Christensen’s article builds on his other articles (including one in the Harvard Business Review last year which won the joint 2nd prize for the best article of 2001) and book “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. It highlights two tests which a disruptive innovation must pass: one on creating a new market as a base of disruption, and the second on disrupting the business model from the low-end.

I have very much liked Christensen’s thinking, and this article is no exception. As I was reading it, I applied it to our ideas on Emergic — how we want to (a) use second-hand PCs and low-cost software to open up new markets in enterprises — people who haven’t been using computers before, and (b) create a new business model of software as a subscription service. Our targets are the world’s poorer and underserved markets — the low-income, developing countries. Our Thin Clien-Thick Server will be simple and affordable, and give computing access to current non-consumers at no more than USD 10 per month.

The second article on Platforms is relevant from the context of what we want to do in creating an Integrated eBusiness software for SMEs. There is no way we can go and create every module businesses need. So, we need to think of an architecture wherein we create the platform and others can build upon it.

Reading the management magazines like SMR and HBR are interesting when one has some ideas in mind because there’s always something to learn if one can (a) choose the right articles to read (b) apply these ideas to the challenges / thinking on hand. They can either contradict or reinforce what one is thinking. The magazines may be expensive to subscribe, but for any entrepreneur, I would strongly recommend investing both the time and money. As entrepreneurs, this is, in fact, a very inexpensive mechanism for exposing ourselves to new, innovative thinking from some of the best experts in the business. The key is to read the articles and think from our context, and not necessarily, the BigCo context that is embedded in the writings.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.