A company and an industry toodles along profitably for years. Then suddenly, BLAM! Some new technology comes along to make everything they've been doing redundent or even useless. The torturous thing about these situations is that the companies can see this happening. But they're too big, too slow-moving and too wedded to the procedures and products and infrastructure that brought them this far. They're afraid of change.
That fear ultimately kills them. Ask Kodak. Even though they invented the digital camera, they weren't able to ween themselves away from film and film processing. Now they're dead in the water.
Yet these technological sea changes come with their own perils. In the act of moving us forward can actually drag us backward in some regards. Bob Lefsetz opines on the subject of disruptive technologies. He makes some good points.
Remember when you didn’t want an answering machine with a chip, because the sound was bad and capacity was low?
Well, now you can’t find an answering machine with tape.
Then again, few people use answering machines. They use voice mail. Oftentimes on their mobile phones.
And remember when mobile phones were cumbersome and had lousy functionality? Now they’re tiny and you oftentimes can’t tell if someone is calling from a landline or a mobile.
The disruptive technology is at first pooh-poohed, it’s crummy. But as it gets better, it gains audience, and then it becomes the mainstream.