Disrupt Or Go Home

May 30, 2024

The term, disruptive innovation, reminds us of what the late, great funnyman and real disruptive innovator, Robin Williams, once said about drugs: “When I was growing up, they used to say, ‘Robin, drugs can kill you.’ Now that I’m 58 my doctor is telling me, ‘Robin, you need drugs to live.’”


Ditto about disruptive innovation. To paraphrase Robin Williams, as kids in classrooms we were constantly warned “don’t be disruptive – or else”, and now as adults in boardrooms we are constantly warned to “be disruptive – or else”. In fact, in the pharmaceutical industry it is considered ‘disruptive’ not to claim to be disruptive!


Talk about a mixed message! Not to a mention mixed-up one!

Anyway, since when does innovation need an over-the-top, trendy adjective in front of it like disruptive to be taken seriously? Innovation is innovation. And since when did “disrupt and you will go home” become “disrupt or go home”?

Well, since 1995. In that year, Harvard Professor, Clayton M. Christensen (1952-2020), shown below, co-wrote an article called, “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave” in which he introduced this term disruptive innovation to describe new products that are simultaneously market-makers and market-breakers.

Historical examples of disruptive innovation include the printing press, gunpowder, digital imaging, personal computers, emails, Wikipedia, and cell phones, all of which displaced and eventually replaced what came before it. More recent examples include Uber and Airbnb, which, as alternatives to traditional taxis and hotels, massively disrupted these industries.

In a way, the term “disruptive innovation” is itself a disruptive innovation because it has rendered the unadjectived word innovation almost obsolete.

Almost but not quite.

We still like innovation, plain and simple, whether it comes prepackaged with other buzzwords or not.

And so does Dr. Anthony P. Conley, Sarcoma Specialist from MD Anderson who will present potentially game-changing clinical trial results with AdAPT-001 plus a checkpoint inhibitor in checkpoint inhibitor-resistant tumor types at ASCO 2024 next week.

AdAPT-001 is pretty easy for clinicians like Dr. Conley to administer and more or less convenient for patients to receive.

Now that’s what we call non-disruptive innovation!