Criticism of ChristensenChristensen’s theory has been used over the time to explain every kind of disruptive innovation. Since then, many authors have been opposed to this theory, creating controversy around it. Skeptics argue that disruptive innovations are less common than Christensen states. The most well-known authors criticizing Christensen’s theory are Andrew A. King and Baljir Baatartogtokh who wrote an article about Christensen’s theory in 2015 for MIT Sloan Management Review.
In the article, they state that the theory has been widely accepted and its predictive power has never been questioned and it has been poorly tested in the academic literature. The examples Christensen took for developing his model lack quantitative testing, and the tests that have been published do not provide any evidence that validates the theory. Furthermore, as Christensen himself had stated, for them the theory has been used in settings that do not correspond anymore with the principal idea or application of the theory. They decided to test each of the 77 case-examples that Christensen used for developing and testing his theory in “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. The findings resemble that most of the cases used by Christensen did not met the four key conditions he described as the main elements of the theory, either following the predictions. Those four elements corresponded with the fact that incumbents in the market improve along a trajectory of sustaining innovation, they overshoot customer’s needs, they are able to react to disruption, and incumbents end up struggling due to the disruption.They found that not all the case-examples considered for the theory included sustaining technological innovation before the inclusion of the potential disruptive innovation. At the same time, not all incumbents mentioned in the study exceeded customer needs or were capable of responding to disruptors, and around one-third of the incumbents were not displaced by the new technology.
In overall, they stated that not all the cases represented as examples in the theory, do not correspond closely to it. Only seven cases meet the criteria proposed by Christensen. On their point of view, the problems arising by the inclusion of a disruptive technology should be solved and evaluated from not a single perspective, but a number of them. In this regard, they recommend the use of the more accurate parts of the theory of disruptive innovation in combination to other classical approaches.
The whole theory should be used just when certain conditions are met, as the theory reflects failure examples, not what the most and more diverse business might do. They propose a way for managers to react an emerging potential competitors, based on the evaluation of the industry state, as it might not continue to be attractive to fight competitors or new entries if the industry becomes unattractive; then next step would be to analyse whether the current capabilities possessed by the company can be used if there is an expansion to another market. The final stage would consist in collaborating with new entrants in the market as many pharmaceutical companies do when they face competition or disruption from a biotech company. As an end point of their critic, they state that managers can follow theories in order to get answers on what to do when disruptors comes into the market, but they should not replace the critical thinking and the careful evaluation of each particular case situation in terms of competitive advantage and competition (King A. & Baatartogtokh B, 2015). In the same year, Jill Lepore accused Christensen of choosing studies that allowed him to match his prejudices and ignoring evidence contradicting the theory; “Disruption is a theory of change founded on panic, anxiety, and shaky evidence”. She states that since Christensen released his theory, “everyone has been disrupting or being disrupted”.
According to Lepore, theories referring to changes are meant to be an account of historical events and a model for the future, and in the case of Christensen’s theory about disruptive innovations, the analysis of past events or historical data has not been met, so the predictions made through the model are not strong enough to consider it as a theory per se or being able to predict future events. For her, disruptive innovation is just a theory explaining why business fail, not a theory about change. (The disruption machine.
what the gospel of innovation gets wrong. Lepore 2015) Christensen has stated that they use of his theory and words have become random and it is being used for justifying and explaining anything considered disruptive innovation, which is a mistake (MaryAnne M. Gobbe, Research-technology management, 2015).