Ten Great Quotes on Disruption

The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by quotation.
 Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen

We hear the word disruption every day. Joseph Bower and Clayton Christensen introduced the term “disruptive innovation” in a landmark 1995 Harvard Business Review article. They defined disruptive innovation as a process by which a cheaper new product launches with an “attack from below” on a market, but then gradually overtakes the incumbent players.

In the years since, the phrase has been shortened to just “disruption” and the colloquial meaning expanded to include any transformational change. Despite the term’s over-use (and mis-use) we are undoubtedly now in an “age of disruption”. While researching my book, Retail’s Last Mile, I became deeply acquainted with Christensen’s work and collected some great quotes along the way.

Please feel free to share your own favourite quotes on my LinkedIn posting of this article.


People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.
— Theodore Levitt
If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.
— Jeff Bezos
The reason why it is so difficult for existing firms to capitalize on disruptive innovations is that their processes and their business model that make them good at the existing business actually make them bad at competing for the disruption.
— Clayton Christensen
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
— Charles Darwin
Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.
— Warren Buffett
I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed.
— Steve Jobs
The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.
— Albert Einstein
Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.
— Peter F. Drucker
Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
— Dale Carnegie
If you defer investing your time and energy until you see that you need to, chances are it will already be too late.
— Clayton Christensen