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苹果、特斯拉和优步都不具备颠覆性

Philip Elmer-DeWitt 2015年12月31日

颠覆性创新之父,哈佛商学院王牌教授克莱顿•克里斯坦森对这一理论正本清源,声称苹果、特斯拉和优步都不算是颠覆性创新。那么,什么才是颠覆式创新?

无意中听到有人谈论苹果、特斯拉和优步如何颠覆各自的市场,让我想起了电影《安妮•霍尔》中的一个场景(如上图所示):在争论马歇尔•麦克卢汉的冷媒和热媒理论时,伍迪•艾伦动用杀手锏——他求助于这一理论最高权威,即麦克卢汉本尊。

麦克卢汉对艾伦扮演的角色,一个自命不凡的哥伦比亚大学学者说道:“你对我的作品一无所知。你能在什么都不懂的情况下讲授一门课,真是令人吃惊。”

现在站在舞台中央的是克莱顿•克里斯坦森。在《创新者的窘境》(The Innovator’s Dilemma,1997)、《创新者的解答》(The Innovator’s Solution,2013,与迈克尔•雷纳合著)这两部具有开创意义的著作中,这位哈佛商学院王牌教授向大众普及了颠覆性创新理论。

他告诉批评者,尤其是《纽约客》,以及一大批拥护者,他们当中的绝大多数对自己的作品一无所知。

在《哈佛商业评论》12月的一篇文章中,克里斯坦森、雷纳和洛里•麦克唐纳,给颠覆性创新的概念划清了界限。

他们试图重申他们在近20年前展现给世界的这一想法:“尽管得到了广泛传播,但这一理论的核心概念被大量误解,其基本原理常常被误用。”

颠覆性创新的基本原理是什么?我尽可能简要地概括出三个必要条件:

1. 有一家生机勃勃的小型初创公司采用了一种新型商业模式与巨头正面竞争。

2. 有一群新的低端消费者,它们要么被现有公司过度服务(这些公司总想取悦最好的客户),要么根本没有得到服务。

3. 某种科技促进因素,让这家小企业掌握了某些优势,得以进入高端市场。等到巨头们发现小企业的威胁时,已经太晚了。

这些是必要条件。如果没有同时满足这三条,就不具备科技上的颠覆性。

至少,创造该理论的人是这么说的。

按照他们的标准,苹果、特斯拉和优步都不符合要求。

苹果在发布iPhone时不能算是一家生机勃勃的初创公司。

特斯拉是一家初创公司,但他们是从高端市场进军汽车业的。

优步的市场既不新,也没有被过度服务。你没有听到过乘客会抱怨出租车太快或是座椅太舒适。

颠覆式创新的理论家们认为,这三家公司只是想出了招徕顾客的更好方式。他们利用了现有市场,把事情做得更好。

那么什么才是颠覆式创新?颠覆式创新长什么样?维基百科提供了一个有用的例子:

“汽车不属于颠覆性创新,因为早期的汽车是高端的奢侈品,并未颠覆马车市场。运输市场本质上没有受到冲击,直到1908年廉价的福特Model T推出。这种大批量生产的汽车属于颠覆性创新,因为它改变了运输市场,而汽车面世的前30年并没有做到这一点。”

你可能会问,那有什么区别?使用什么术语真的那么重要?

克里斯坦森的团队认为这非常重要。这个概念原本出自计算机磁盘驱动器市场的创新,它不仅是一个理论,还是一种在创新频繁,市场变动剧烈时期管理企业的诀窍。

他们写道:“必须正确运用这一理论,才能体现出它的好处。你很可能不必在意那些侵蚀你边缘业务的小型竞争者——只有他们处于颠覆性创新的模式下,才可能造成致命的威胁。”

了解这一区别可能很重要。(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

审校:任文科

Overhearing people talk about how Apple, Tesla, and Uber disrupted their respective markets, I’m reminded of that scene in Annie Hall, pictured above, where Woody Allen settles an argument about Marshall McLuhan’s theories of hot and cool media by turning to the highest authority at hand—McLuhan himself, dragged in from offstage.

“You know nothing of my work,” says McLuhan to Allen’s foil, a pretentious academic from Columbia University. “How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.”

Enter, stage left, Clayton Christensen. He’s the Harvard professor who popularized the theory of disruptive innovation in two seminal works: The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997) and, with Michael Raynor, The Innovator’s Solution (2013).

He’s here to tell both his critics (notably in the New Yorker) and his admirers that most of them know nothing of his work.

In an article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review, Christensen and Raynor have, with Rory McDonald, drawn a line in the sand. On one side is disruptive innovation. On the other is everything else.

“Despite broad dissemination,” they write, trying to re-take control of a powerful idea they loosed on the world nearly 20 year ago, “the theory’s core concepts have been widely misunderstood and its basic tenets frequently misapplied.”

What are those basic tenets? Putting it as simply as I can, there are three necessary conditions:

There’s a small, scrappy start-up that is taking on the big guys with a new business model.

There’s a new class of low-end customers who are either over-served by established companies (that are always trying to please their best customers) or not being served at all.

There’s a technological accelerant that gives the little guy an edge he can use to move up-market. By the time the big guys realize they’re in danger, it’s already too late.

These are necessary conditions. If you don’t have all three, you don’t have technological disruption.

Or so say the guys who created the theory.

And by their measure, Apple, Tesla, and Uber don’t fit the bill.

Apple was hardly a scrappy start-up when it introduced the iPhone.

Tesla was a startup, but it entered the car business from the high end.

Uber’s market is neither new nor over-served. You don’t hear many taxi customers complaining that their cab came too fast or the ride was too comfortable.

All three companies, the disruption theorists argue, merely built better mousetraps. They took existing markets and made things better .

So what IS a disruptive innovation? What does THAT look like? Wikipedia offers a useful example:

“The automobile was not a disruptive innovation, because early automobiles were expensive luxury items that did not disrupt the market for horse-drawn vehicles. The market for transportation essentially remained intact until the debut of the lower-priced Ford Model T in 1908. The mass-produced automobile was a disruptive innovation, because it changed the transportation market, whereas the first thirty years of automobiles did not.”

By now you are probably asking what difference it makes. Does it matter what terms we use?

Team Christensen argues that it does. The ideas, drawn originally from a study of innovation in the computer disk drive market, offer not just a theory, but prescriptions for management in a time of great innovation and market upheaval.

“Applying the theory correctly is essential to realizing its benefits,” they write. “Small competitors that nibble away at the periphery of your business very likely should be ignored—unless they are on a disruptive trajectory, in which case they are a potentially mortal threat.”

Knowing the difference probably matters.

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