Disrupting think tanks

I’m a fan of Clayton Christensen’s concept of disruptive innovation (originally, technology). Firstly because I’m drawn to counterintuitive ideas, in this case that some of the most succesful innovations depend on doing less for the customer. Secondly because disruptive innovation focuses on what the customer actually wants (rather than innovation for innovation’s sake).

‘Less’ is not quite accurate because what Christensen points to is that there might be a much larger market of potential customers for a product or service if only someone can find a way to supply a ‘good enough’ version for a lower price. This is the kind of opportunity that incumbent businesses tend to overlook (or dismiss), since margins tend to be lower, and which new entrants can exploit. These new entrants often end up overturning whole markets (when was the last time you bought a printed encyclopedia?) – hence disruptive innovation.

Can our new approach disrupt the traditional think tank business model? It looks like a market that’s ripe for disruption. High fixed costs. Incumbents focusing on a small number of existing ‘high-end’ customers. Over-specified products. Limited use of cheap, commonplace ICT.

Of course, plenty of disruptive innovations don’t succeed. Will ours?



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