Media Releases

New Book by Rotman School Professor Examines How Firms Manage Disruption

April 28, 2016

Toron­to, ON – Almost twen­ty years ago Clay­ton Chris­tensen pop­u­lar­ized the term dis­rup­tion in his book The Inno­va­tor’s Dilem­ma, writ­ing of dis­rup­tion as a set of risks that estab­lished firms face. Since then, few have close­ly exam­ined his account.

A new book by Joshua Gans, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Rot­man School of Man­age­ment, takes a time­ly clos­er look at dis­rup­tion. In The Dis­rup­tion Dilem­ma, he looks at com­pa­nies that have proven resilient and those that have fall­en, and explains why some com­pa­nies have suc­cess­ful­ly man­aged dis­rup­tion — Fuji­film and Canon, for exam­ple — and why some like Block­buster and Ency­clo­pe­dia Bri­tan­ni­ca have not. Depart­ing from the con­ven­tion­al wis­dom, Prof. Gans iden­ti­fies two kinds of dis­rup­tion: demand-side, when suc­cess­ful firms focus on their main cus­tomers and under­es­ti­mate mar­ket entrants with inno­va­tions that tar­get niche demands; and sup­ply-side, when firms focused on devel­op­ing exist­ing com­pe­ten­cies become inca­pable of devel­op­ing new ones.

Prof. Gans describes the full range of actions busi­ness lead­ers can take to deal with each type of dis­rup­tion, from “self-dis­rupt­ing” inde­pen­dent inter­nal units to tight­ly inte­grat­ed prod­uct devel­op­ment. But there­in lies the dis­rup­tion dilem­ma: A firm can­not prac­tice both inde­pen­dence and inte­gra­tion at once.  In the book, he shows busi­ness lead­ers how to choose their strat­e­gy so their firms can deal with dis­rup­tion while con­tin­u­ing to inno­vate.

“A very good intro­duc­tion to the game the­o­ry and insti­tu­tions of ‘dis­rup­tive inno­va­tion,’ the book also dis­pels many myths about that con­cept,” says Tyler Cowen, co-author of the Mar­gin­al Rev­o­lu­tion blog and a pro­fes­sor at George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty.

“This impor­tant and thought-pro­vok­ing book has been a source of fresh, new insights for me. Even when Gans dis­agrees with my work, it has giv­en me a chance to improve what the the­o­ry needs to say,” says Clay­ton M. Chris­tensen, author of The Inno­va­tor’s Dilem­ma and the Kim B. Clark Pro­fes­sor of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion at the Har­vard Busi­ness School.

About the author.

Joshua Gans is a Pro­fes­sor of Strate­gic Man­age­ment and hold­er of the Jef­frey S. Skoll Chair of Tech­ni­cal Inno­va­tion and Entre­pre­neur­ship at the Rot­man School of Man­age­ment (with a cross appoint­ment in the Depart­ment of Eco­nom­ics). Since 2013, he has also been Area Coor­di­na­tor of Strate­gic Man­age­ment. He is also Chief Econ­o­mist of the Rot­man School’s Cre­ative Destruc­tion Lab.

Pri­or to 2011, he was the foun­da­tion Pro­fes­sor of Man­age­ment (Infor­ma­tion Eco­nom­ics) at the Mel­bourne Busi­ness School, Uni­ver­si­ty of Mel­bourne and pri­or to that he was at the School of Eco­nom­ics, Uni­ver­si­ty of New South Wales. In 2011, Prof. Gans was a vis­it­ing researcher at Microsoft Research (New Eng­land). He holds a Ph.D. from Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty and an hon­ors degree in eco­nom­ics from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Queens­land. In 2012, he was appoint­ed as a Research Asso­ciate of the NBER in the Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, Inno­va­tion and Entre­pre­neur­ship Pro­gram.

At the Rot­man School, he teach­es MBA and Com­merce stu­dents Net­work and Dig­i­tal Mar­ket Strat­e­gy. He has also co-authored (with Stephen King and Robin Stonecash) the Aus­tralasian edi­tion of Greg Manki­w’s Prin­ci­ples of Eco­nom­ics (pub­lished by Cen­gage), Core Eco­nom­ics for Man­agers (Cen­gage), Fin­ish­ing the Job (MUP) and Par­ento­nom­ics (New South/MIT Press) and Infor­ma­tion Wants to be Shared (Har­vard Busi­ness Review Press).

About the book.

The MIT Press, 2016
ISBN: 978–0262034487
176 pages

The Rot­man School of Man­age­ment is locat­ed in the heart of Canada’s com­mer­cial and cul­tur­al cap­i­tal and is part of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, one of the world’s top 20 research uni­ver­si­ties. The Rot­man School fos­ters a new way to think that enables our grad­u­ates to tack­le today’s glob­al busi­ness chal­lenges.  For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it


For more infor­ma­tion:

Ken McGuf­fin
Man­ag­er, Media Rela­tions
Rot­man School of Man­age­ment
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tele: 416–946-3818
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