Understanding How The Innovator’s Dilemma Affects You: An Insight into Disruptive Technologies and Market Dynamics


Hatched by Glasp

Jun 28, 2023

5 min read


Understanding How The Innovator’s Dilemma Affects You: An Insight into Disruptive Technologies and Market Dynamics


Innovation has always been a driving force behind progress, shaping industries and transforming consumer experiences. However, the concept of disruptive innovation, as defined by Clayton Christensen in his book "The Innovator's Dilemma," sheds light on a phenomenon that challenges the very foundations of established markets. This article aims to explore the implications of disruptive technologies and the innovator's dilemma, while also discussing the approach to AI safety in an ever-evolving technological landscape.

Disruptive Innovation: Opening Doors for New Consumers

A disruptive innovation can be defined as an innovation that allows a previously underserved population of consumers to access a product or service that was historically only accessible to those with considerable resources or expertise. It disrupts the existing market dynamics by introducing a new approach that fundamentally changes the game.

The Innovator's Dilemma: Survival in the Face of Technological Change

The central thesis of "The Innovator's Dilemma" is that incumbents in well-established markets rarely survive when faced with fundamental technological changes. Incumbents often dismiss the new competition, along with the large buyers of their products. Paradoxically, these buyers often have a vested interest in sticking with the incumbent.

Disruptive technologies are not only innovative but also significantly less expensive. The providers of these technologies operate on lower margins, as they have nothing to lose and nothing to protect. This cost disparity eventually catches the attention of enterprise customers, who start questioning whether the disruptive technology is good enough to meet their requirements. If the incumbent were to drastically cut costs, they would simply be following the lead of the new entrant, which is not a viable long-term strategy.

The Innovator's Response: Chasing Performance and Functionality

Instead of cutting costs, incumbents tend to increase their spending on features, performance, and functionality. They gather feedback from their high-requirement customers and plan how to make even more advanced products. As time progresses, the performance of the incumbent's offerings gets closer to that of the new entrant, causing a massive shift in the market. Customers begin to "trade down" to the disruptive technology, attracted by its lower price point.

Disruptive Technologies: Lower Price, Bigger Market Opportunities

Disruptive technologies are often perceived as less performant and "chintzey" compared to their more established competitors. However, their radically lower price points create deflationary pressures in the market. While the incumbents may struggle to disrupt their own profitable businesses, disruptive technologies encourage more users and innovation in the ecosystem, leading to even bigger market opportunities than initially perceived.

The Role of Incumbents: Funding Their Successors

Anecdotal evidence suggests that incumbents often struggle to disrupt their own businesses on a massive scale. Change usually comes from outside the incumbents' realm. In some cases, the best they can do is help fund their successors. By recognizing the potential of disruptive technologies and investing in innovative startups, incumbents can ensure their relevance in a rapidly evolving market.

AI Safety: Learning from Real-World Use

As technology continues to advance, the issue of AI safety becomes increasingly crucial. Companies like ours work diligently to prevent foreseeable risks before deploying AI systems. However, there are limitations to what can be learned in a controlled lab environment. Real-world use is an essential component of creating and releasing safe AI systems.

Continuous Improvement and User Feedback

We adopt a cautious and gradual approach to releasing new AI systems, with substantial safeguards in place. As we learn from real-world use, we make continuous improvements to enhance safety. Feedback from users is invaluable in this process, as it helps us identify potential areas of improvement and address any concerns promptly.

Transparency and Accountability

Transparency is a key aspect of AI safety. When users sign up to use our AI tools, we strive to be as transparent as possible about the limitations and potential inaccuracies of the technology. We believe that users should have a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of AI systems to make informed decisions.

Mitigating Risks and Protecting Privacy

We take several steps to mitigate risks and protect user privacy. Personal information is removed from training datasets whenever feasible. Models are fine-tuned to reject requests for personal information. Additionally, we respond to individuals' requests to delete their personal information from our systems. These measures minimize the possibility of AI models generating responses that include private information.

Governance and Collaboration

To effectively address AI safety concerns, policymakers and AI providers must collaborate to ensure responsible development and deployment at a global scale. It is crucial to establish governance frameworks that prioritize ethical considerations, prevent corner-cutting, and maintain a balanced technological advancement.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace Disruptive Technologies: Instead of dismissing disruptive technologies as inferior, incumbents should recognize their potential and explore opportunities for collaboration or investment. This proactive approach can help incumbents stay relevant in a rapidly changing market.
  • 2. Foster Innovation and Feedback Loops: Companies should create channels for user feedback and actively seek input from customers. This enables continuous improvement and ensures that AI systems align with user needs and expectations.
  • 3. Prioritize Transparency and User Education: Transparency should be a cornerstone of AI deployment. Users should be educated about the capabilities and limitations of AI systems, empowering them to make informed decisions and manage their expectations.


Understanding the dynamics of disruptive technologies and the challenges posed by the innovator's dilemma is essential for both incumbents and new entrants in any industry. By embracing innovation, fostering collaboration, prioritizing AI safety, and ensuring transparency, companies can navigate the evolving technological landscape responsibly. It is through collective efforts and a commitment to ethical practices that we can harness the potential of disruptive technologies while minimizing the risks associated with their deployment.

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