The cover of The Innovator's Dilemma

The Innovator's Dilemma

When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

by Clayton M. Christensen

This book appears frequently on lists of must-read business books, and for good reason: in it, Christensen lays out a clear and counter-intuitive argument for the power and elusiveness of disruptive technologies. Christensen was the expert in disruptive technologies — he wrote the book on it, and this is that book.

When it was published in 1997, many of the ideas in The Innovator’s Dilemma were novel. Before being unearthed by Christensen, they laid dormant in piles of data about semiconductors, minimills, and hard drive storage. But in the 23 years since, the reality of disruptive technology has been difficult to ignore; for that reason, this book reads as out-of-date.

There’s still lots to glean. One of the most memorable articulations in the book is about risk: investing in disruptive technology isn’t adding new risk to your business, it’s simply trading in the risk of being victim to disruption.