The Disruption Distraction

By JEFF GOLDSMITH (27)

               

        Clayton Christensen/World Economic Forum via Wikimedia Commons

Clayton Christiansen’s  1997 classic Innovators Dilemma explored how established businesses are blindsided by lower cost competitors that undermine their core products, and eventually destroy their businesses.   Classic examples of disruption are the displacement of film-based cameras by digital cameras and, now, cell phones, the destruction of retail shopping by Amazon and of video rental outlets by streaming video services. 

Because of the anxiety it generated, Christiansen’s disruption thesis has dominated corporate strategy ever since. However,  I believe this notion of “disruptive innovation, twenty years on,   has reached its “sell-by” date, at least in healthcare,  and is now doing more harm than good.  

The healthcare version of the disruption thesis was found in Christiansen’s “Innovator’s Prescription”, written with health industry maverick Dr. Jerome Grossman, in 2009.  Christiansen and Grossman forecast that innovations such as point-of-care testing, retail clinics and special purpose surgical hospitals threatened to take down healthcare incumbents- physicians and hospitals.  

This book gave rise to a swarm of breathless healthcare disruption forecasts.  Eric Topol predicted that the cell phone and a swarm of diagnostic apps would shortly replace the physician as the patient’s principal source of diagnostic wisdom.  Vinod Khosla said that 80% of physicians would be replaced by AI.