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Seeing What's Next: Using Theories of Innovation to Predict Industry Change Hardcover – September 21, 2004
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"Just as kids await the latest Harry Potter installment, so do business leaders look for Clayton M. Christensens next offering." -- Inc. Magazine, September 2004
About the Author
Christensen is one of the brightest stars in business right now, and is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on innovation. He is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, with a joint appointment in Technology & Operations Management and General Management Scott D. Anthony is a Partner at Innosight LLC and Erik A. Roth is a consultant in McKinsey & Company's Boston office.
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"Seeing What's Next" consists of 2 parts. The first part introduces a couple of techniques to evaluate companies disruptive potential (based on the theory developed in the Innovators Dilemma and the Innovators Solution). The second part uses these tools to analyze six industries: 1) Education, 2) Airlines, 3) Microprocessors, 4) Healthcare, 5) Countries, and 6) Telecom.
The first part consists of 3+1 chapters. The first 3 chapters provide a 3-step evaluation method to see whether a company has the potential to disrupt another company. The steps are: 1) What signs are there that change is possible, 2) How do the summary of the companies look like, 3) What strategic decisions did the company make. The first chapter summarizes the previous 2 books. The second chapter explains how to quickly evaluate a company based on the theory-techniques used in the previous books and the third looks at the decisions that management has made related to the potentially disruptive change. The fourth chapter looks at the influence of government on all of this.
The second part goes over different case studies. How will remote learning disrupt educational institutes. Will airlines be disrupted? What is the future of Intel and other chip makers? What does disruption look like in healthcare? How can we use the theory for deciding national government strategy? And the last case study related to the telecom industry. Now, *that* chapter was most interesting to me as I worked in the telecom industry for about 15 years now. So, I figured that I could say something about the analyzes done. In my opinion, it is quite a mess, the analysis that is (also the industry, but that is a different thing). Technology-wise the authors make a mess by confusing IP with VOIP and missing the history of package-switched systems (e.g. complaining about its reliability, whereas the technology was developed for the purpose of reliability). Also, the author is completely missing the point about how innovation and inventions have been created in the industry. But the worst of all, the authors completely miss out the role of the equipment manufacturers and only focus on the role of the network operators. In my opinion, a big mistake. It is also no surprise that the predictions are mostly false (at least, as far as the last 10 years). In fact, I wouldn't draw the conclusion that the "theory" can help predict disruptive change, but my conclusion would be more than in-depth knowledge is a prerequisite of predicting anything.
That also leads me to something that bothered me the whole book (and also the Innovators Solution), which is the book builds up a "theory" which 'managers' (it seems from authors perspective there are only managers in companies) can use to predict disruption and that way avoid its pitfalls. The problem though... theory must be based on certain assumptions, such as... how do companies work? The authors never clarify their assumptions about the world that forms the basis of their 'theory' so we must figure it out based on their 'theory' and how they describe it. I can't say what these assumptions are, but, especially the assumptions about companies feel very very traditional and extremely manager-focused. They do not match with my experiences at all.
But my favorite part of the book must be how the authors write a whole book about using theory to "See Whats Next." They argue we need to use theory instead of history, because history mostly 'predicts' the past but not the future. Then they end the book with this quote "Indeed, the telecommunications industry has historically seen waves of disruptive innovations that in other contexts might have systematically changes the structure of the industry ... nothing has fundamentally reshaped the industry since the introduction of the telephone". I don't know how to interpret that, but it weakens the whole books premise.
I would not recommend reading this book.
The former book helps one consider ways innovation theories can be brought to bear in one's personal life (see my review of that work), while the later remains an indispensible reference for these theories and their application.
Agreeing with other reviewers that there are many positive aspects to this book, the Introduction, Conclusion (What's Next?), Appendix (Summary of Key Concepts), and Glossary are particularly helpful as quick guides and "job aides."
For instance, the Introduction explains the core theories of innovation, e.g. why certain actions, such as disruptive innovations, lead to certain results. It also emphasizes the benefits of good theory in looking into the future in the face of conclusive business data only about the past.
The Conclusion recaps the book providing a figure that concisely compiles the "questions in the analytical process" including those regarding "signals of change," "competitive battles," and "strategic choices." Another figure offers "lessons" from theory based analyses of the education, aviation, semiconductor, health care, and telecommunication industries----a jumping off point to other Christensen books on particular sectors, e.g. education ("Disrupting Class") and health care ("Innovators Prescription").
In the Appendix, there are figures and text that summarize "the theory building process," theories of "disruptive innovation," "resources/processes/values," "jobs to be done," "value chain evolution," "schools of experience," and "emergent strategy." Similar charts and brief descriptions also recount "sustaining innovation classification," "discovery driven planning," and "motivation/ability" frameworks. The Glossary conveys definitions of these and other related terms.
This book is a key to Disruptive Innovation theory and a roadmap to be consulted in its use.
A lot of innovation has happened since the book's release (2004) including iPhones (2007) and YouTube (2005). While the book is a great review on how older companies have failed to innovate, many of his innovating/modern examples are now flailing as well, like Dell.
While it's important to know your history, it's too distracting to have to evaluate and reposition his "modern" examples over and over.
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I'm a big fan and can use a lot of the info
It would be Interesting to see some of the ideas in this book applied to the social media and mobile revolution.Read more