Disruptive technology

Disruptive technology is a term coined by Clayton M. Christensen

Also known as disruptive innovation, disruptive technology is the phenomenon in which a new product is developed that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry, or creates a completely new industry. As described by Christensen, the only way to fully escape the effects of destructive innovation is to consistently innovate within the profession one belongs to. Although the term was coined in 1997, disruptive technology has been a prevalent theme throughout history.

One such example of disruptive technology was the invention of the printing press. Following the year of 1440, Gutenberg's printing press had spread throughout Europe at an incredibly rapid rate, forcing many scribes to either adopt the newly developed technology, or put themselves out of business. Within the Ottoman Empire however, scribe guilds had acknowledged the threat of the printing press, and demanded that the new technology be banned within the province. Because many of the scribes were very wealthy due to the inflated costs of books, the Sultan, afraid of not being supported by the wealthy elite, banned the printing press from the Empire. However, this did not stop the eventual spreading of printed books throughout the region and eventually the printing press ban was uplifted, effectively ending the hand written scribe profession [1].

In a more extreme example, the creation of the atomic bomb can be considered a Disruptive Technology. Since its deployment in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the nuclear bomb had sparked the expansion of multiple industries; nuclear engineering, uranium mining, nuclear physics, and computer engineering are but a few examples. Since its deployment in 1945, there have been a total of 2,054 nuclear test explosions to date [2]. It has changed the ways in which nations interpret warfare, and has resulted in technological advancement in related areas.


  1. http://www.project-disco.org/competition/080713-a-brief-history-of-disruptive-innovation-part-i/#.V081avkrLcs
  2. https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/nucleartesttally