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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A buzzword in the tech community today is Disruptive Innovation -- popularized by a book called The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christenson. The basic notion (and there is a lot of truth to this) is that existing businesses have great difficulty adjusting to new technologies that change the fundamental dynamics in their business, and that paralysis leads to their eventual demise at the hands of young upstarts that don't carry the baggage of an existing customer base and product line.

NPR ran a story yesterday about a disruptive technology in a different business: saws. SawStop has invented a cool safety technology that can sense when a saw blade comes in contact with soft tissue and can stop the blade in 5 milliseconds or less. Great video here (using a hot dog as the "soft tissue" -- and it's barely nicked).

They've shopped it around, and discovered resistance from existing saw manufactureres for two reasons:

1. After an incident where the safety feature engages, the blade needs to be replaced.

2. If a saw manufacturer were to offer it on only some of their models, they would potentially be opening themselves up to liability lawsuits for all of the other products they offer without the feature.

So the entrenched players aren't going to move, and some small player or new entrant will make a big bet on this and either go broke or reinvent the market.

A fantastic example of how a market reacts to a disruptive innovation.

1:34:51 PM    ; comment []

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