Disruptive Technologies

Those of us who attended the JISC “Next Generation Technologies in Practice” conference at Loughborough, or maybe followed the event on Twitter, may have been taught a new phrase last week, I know I did – “Disruptive Technologies”

Those of you who have already heard of this term may be laughing at those of us who, until this point have never heard of it, and when you read on you will kick yourself because the number of examples in our field in recent years is endless…

A disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is a technological innovation that improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically by being lower priced or designed for a different set of consumers.

Disruptive innovations can be broadly classified into two:
• A new-market disruptive innovation is often aimed at non-consumption (i.e., consumers who would not have used the products already on the market);
• A lower-end disruptive innovation is aimed at mainstream customers for whom price is more important than quality.

An example that jumped into my mind when I thought about this were the new ‘Netbooks’, you must have seen people tapping away in meetings, on the train and at other events – these are a type of laptop computer designed for wireless communication and access to the Internet which enable web browsing and e-mailing. Netbooks rely heavily on the Internet for remote access to web-based applications and are targeted increasingly at cloud computing users who require a less powerful client computer.

Can you think of any other examples, not just within the educational field, if so reply with a comment!

Matthew Wheeler
Keeper of the Media Zoo

Leave a comment


  1. thanks keep posting,Im really enjoying your site

  2. bdra

     /  March 16, 2009

    Hi Matt

    There’s a great book by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne called Blue Ocean Strategy (see their website http://www.blueoceanstrategy.com/ ) which promotes this idea very persuasively. One of the examples they give is of Cirque du Soleil, the unconventional Canadian circus that became hugely successful just when traditional circuses were losing customers. They captured some of the non-customers of traditional circuses (adults rather than children, and people who liked the theatre and drama of the circus rather than the silliness) as well as some disillusioned circus-goers (people who didn’t like the exploitation of animals). There are many more examples in the book – it’s an inspiring read 🙂



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