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Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation Hardcover – January 7, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Big Bang Disruption should be required reading for anyone attempting to launch a business or stay in business in the face of digitally enabled competition.”
Research Technology Management magazine

“Everything you need from business school in one very direct book. Big Bang Disruption elegantly and simply identifies why innovation happens in some new companies and how you can embrace and harness this new way of thinking.”

“Everyone has heard of the Innovator’s Dilemma, but this book is about the Innovator’s Nightmare. What should you do if your business is disrupted virtually overnight? Reading this book is the best action you can take to fend off a Big Bang Disruption.”

“A fascinating insight. Read this book quickly because the rules of the innovation game change overnight in this brave new world set out by the authors.”

“Big bangs are everywhere and are happening faster each year and with bigger impact. People in every industry would be well advised to follow the unconventional strategies outlined in this book. Big Bang Disruption got my company energized to innovate ahead of the curve and drive change rather than become victims.”


“As Jaws was to summer blockbusters, Big Bang Disruption is to business cycles; it presents a playbook for new opportunities and new dangers. It’s also as scary as Jaws but it’s better to know what everyone else will soon see than to bury one’s head in the sand and pretend these disruptors don’t exist.”

“People think in straight lines and are surprised when there is a sharp takeoff. Larry Downes and Paul Nunes teach us to anticipate exponential growth and think outside the line and onto the curve. Their observations on life and business are seminal for the way we work and live.”

“Wow! Big Bang Disruption beautifully captures how technology has changed the speed and cycle of innovation. It is a primer on dizzying change in many industries and a strategy manual for any entrepreneur or CEO who must understand disruptive innovation to survive and prosper. A compelling must-read!”


“The strength of the book is to document what is known about the ongoing phenomenon of fast-paced large-scale disruption and the book gives many vivid examples…If Christensen’s disruption from below was scary, big bang disruption can be downright terrifying.” 

“As Google’s decision to offer free navigation services shows, disrupters may not give a jot about making money in traditional ways from a service. Moreover, the web means all-out assaults on a market can now be mounted quickly and cheaply. So firms can no longer be sure that rivals will take a step-by-step approach to conquering a market.”
The Economist

“By analyzing research from the Accenture Institute for High Performance and conducting interviews with entrepreneurs and investors, the authors found a number of characteristics that big bang disruptors have in common. They turned what they learned into Big Bang Disruption, a playbook of sorts for entrepreneurs.”

“What makes this narrative so compelling to me, besides good writing and its undeniably cool cosmic metaphor, is its emphasis on the act of creation. Creation that springs not from isolated innovators toiling in obscurity, but in the context of a universe of suppliers, other innovators, and the individuals who make it all work if they bestow their favor: customers.” 
Michael Belfiore.com

“…[A] stimulating read. It is carefully researched and accessibly written…. The case studies on disruption alone are worth the cover price.”
The Financial Times

Kirkus Reviews
Two leaders in the field of technological applications and business productivity present dramatic evidence for the emergence of a new model for economic innovation, which they call “exponential technology,” and warn that “every industry is now at risk” and must learn how to negotiate the new landscape.
Corporate strategy consultant Downes (co-author: Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance, 1998) and Nunes (co-author: Jumping the S-Curve: How to Beat the Growth Cycle, Get on Top and Stay There, 2011, etc.), the global managing director of research at the Accenture Institute for High Performance, call their model “the shark fin” due to its ominously familiar shape: a quick vertical launch followed almost immediately by rapid collapse. The world's billion-plus users of smartphone technology form a customer base that has permitted rapid reduction of the costs of implementing new technologies. The authors review Google's free mapping app, which rendered stand-alone GPS technologies obsolete, just as the GPS devices had buried traditional mapmakers like Rand McNally. Downes and Nunes also discuss how Amazon has further transformed publishing and bookselling with each new iteration of the Kindle e-reader. The authors include traditional industries, as well, from automobile and pharmaceuticals to glassmaking and pinball machines. Combined with their treatment of the effects of Moore's Law (regarding the doubling rate of semiconductor power and the reduction of unit price) and Metcalfe's Law (regarding the value of networked goods), their argument becomes extremely appealing. The cumulative effects of both laws extend down the supply chain, dramatically cheapening costs and increasing returns to scale. “As exponential technologies and the disruptors they spawn remake your industry in ever-shorter cycles of creative disruption,” they conclude, “the most valuable asset you can have is speed.”
With informative graphics, the authors deliver a groundbreaking outline for dealing with the inevitable increase in business disruptions caused by new technology.

About the Author

LARRY DOWNES is an Internet industry analyst and author on the impact of disruptive technologies on business and policy. His first book, Unleashing the Killer App, was one of the biggest business bestsellers of the early 2000s. He is a columnist for Forbes and CNET and writes regularly for other publications including USA Today and the Harvard Business Review. He lives in Berkeley, California.

PAUL NUNES is the Global Managing Director of Research at the Accenture Institute for High Performance and the senior contributing editor at Outlook, Accenture’s journal of thought leadership. His most recent book is Jumping the S-Curve. His research findings have been covered by the New York Times, the Wall Street JournalUSA Today, and Forbes. He lives in Boston.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591846900
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591846901
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #639,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Those who have read Larry Downes' previous book, The Laws of Disruption: Harnessing the New Forces that Govern Life and Business in the Digital Age (2009), and/or Paul Nunes' previous book, Jumping the S-Curve: How to Beat the Growth Cycle, Get on Top, and Stay There (2011), were probably as excited as I was to learn that they have collaborated on Big Bang Disruption in which, yes, they develop some of their prior insights in much greater depth but, key point, they provide additional information, insights, and counsel of an equally high quality that offer the substantial value-added benefit of their collaborative, as Roger Martin would characterize it, their integrative thinking.

As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of Charles Darwin's observation, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change." Downes and Nunes suggest that a new paradigm, Big Bang Disruption, occurs much faster and has much greater impact than does the process of natural selection to which Darwin referred. However, in both instances, the given species -- biological or organizational -- must adapt or perish.

I was also reminded of the material that Ichak Adizes provides in Corporate Lifecycles: How and Why Corporations Grow and Die and What to Do About It (1990). In this book, what he views as the ideal combination, the ideal balance, of four critical "factors" (i.e. performance, administration, entrepreneurship, and integration) will always be a "moving target" under constant "attack" by internal as well as external forces, each organization must constantly be aware of what that ideal combination is for it at any given time, what that ideal balance should be. Change is the only constant.
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I have taught a class on innovation management and am somewhat familiar with the academic and popular literature on the topic. I had expected Big Ban Disruption to be a further development of some of Clayton Christensen's ideas and research (Innovator's Dilemma) which is based on a careful analysis of why leading companies in a number of industries (disk drives, retail, steel, construction equipment) have been blind-sided by initially low end innovations introduced by emerging companies the "disrupt" the incumbent and come to dominate the industry. However, Downes and Nunes fall well short of the mark. Specifically,
• Downes and Nunes do not carefully define “disrupting innovation”. For Christensen, a disrupting innovation is one that displaces an incumbent company’s key technology leading to the demise of that product line and often the company. But Downes and Nunes use of disrupting innovation is confusing and inconsistent. For example, they use Twitter as an example of a disruption technology but there is no reference to a company that is the target of this disruption. There are a number of references to companies who introduced a new product—usually through the internet—and then were unable to meet the surge in demand. The “disruption” experience seems to be felt mostly by the company introducing the product, not (as Christensen would define it) as a disruption to the business of the incumbent competitor.
* The book is full of sweeping generalizations, exaggerations and overstatements without a discussion of the logic or empirical scholarship to support the case. {Full disclosure--I read the book on Kindle and did not refer to the numerous footnotes which may have provided more support for some of the points the authors were making.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Companies that ignore the rapidly increasing potential for technologies to upend their business fortunes do so at great peril. As an author, Larry Downes has demonstrated a ready insight into the unique challenges technology presents to commerce and an ability to convey his thoughts in a concise, thought-provoking manner. Count on getting that in this engaging argument made by Downes and Paul Nunes: conventional assumptions about barriers that previously mitigated competitor threats are not applicable in today's world. Are they right or wrong? It would be a mistake to not hear them out!
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Format: Hardcover
Disclaimer: I received this book gratis via the authors' PR firm.

The Good
Downes and Nunes have clearly done a great deal of research. Their book is not lacking in content and ambition, calling the work of business stalwarts like Geoffrey Moore and Clayton Christensen into question. They argue that ours is a new, different era, and that the old rules no longer apply.

Major props here for the prodigious examples, even though I had heard of about 80 percent of them. The obliteration of the once-mighty Pinball industry with video game consoles (e.g., PlayStation) over several decades was particularly effective and instructive. Today, product launches and disruption happen much faster. Business leaders should take heed.

There are oodles of lessons to be learned from Kickstarter projects like Pebble Watch, Oculus VR, and others. As I write in The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business, experimentation has never been easier, cheaper, and more necessary.

I also enjoyed the notions of "combinatorial innovation" and "surviving catastrophic success." Because things can "go viral quickly" (e.g., Dollar Shave Club), success can and often is a double-edged sword. It's never been more critical to scale up, something that many of today's cloud-based technologies facilitate. AWS is a prime example.

The Bad
The authors use the terms "Big Bang Disruption" and "Big Bang Disruptors" far too frequently. There are paragraphs and pages with those terms three times and barely a page goes by without at least one of them. This gets a little irritating.
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