What is disruptive technology?
Disruptive technology is a term coined by Christensen in 1997. It comes from the idea that every company is trying to improve their products. The normal way to do this is to take the current product and then try and improve upon it, or to create a new product that goes with it. This practice is also called sustaining technology as you are trying to keep your used technology/product up to date with current demands. This can be compared to evolution, making small steps towards a better product.
However if a company or startup starts creating a new product they don’t have to follow these rules. They could try creating products using completely new technologies or create a new combination of products not seen before. At the beginning these new products will likely not perform as well as the established products but over time they tend to grow quicker than the established products. These are called disruptive technologies, because they disrupt the current way of thinking and the balance in the market. These types of technology can be compared to a revolution, a quick uprising of a product.
An example of a disruptive technology would be the steamboat. At first it had a worse performance than the sailboats and no one believed it would be a big hit until the first ships that could cross the ocean were made.
this article can also give a nice overview of what has happened in the field of disruptive technology. The article aims to bring together the literature written on this topic.
How can I protect myself?
It can be quite difficult for a company to really protect itself against disruptive technologies. It is important to keep an open mind and to keep looking around at newer start ups. Trying to look for new ideas's and products on the market even if they don't seem to be better than your product. This can help you in seeing the disruptive technology coming and might give you some idea about what to do. On the other hand you could try and develop your own new technologies and ideas in a research and development department. You never can really set out to make a disruptive technology, but a influx of new ideas can help in keeping interest in your product.
For more information on the challenges of disruptive technolog you can read this article: Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change
Link with the adaptive cycle
Disruptive technology can be a source of crisis. When your company isn't prepared for a sudden shift in consumer interest you will get into a crisis where you will quickly need to change what you are doing so that you can keep up with customer demand.