By Aaron Pressman
April 23, 2019

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The notion of technology “disrupting” stable businesses was popularized by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen in his great business school tome The Innovator’s Dilemma. Christensen had some particular ideas about what constituted disruption, but in the decades of debate since he published, the term has taken on many meanings.

The broader view of “disruption” is at the heart of a new book by three Accenture executives. Called Pivot to the Future, the book explores multiple dynamics by which companies fall behind and come undone when new technologies disrupt their strategies. Omar Abbosh, one of the authors and the head of Accenture’s communications, media and technology group, was in Boston recently and spent some time explaining what the new book is about.

One danger in the modern economy is companies confusing successful products with sustainable businesses. Listing off examples like GoPro, Groupon and Pokemon Go, Abbosh says explosive growth is not necessarily the signal of a long-term win that it once might have been. Social media makes it easier than ever for viral trends to take off, but also to be replaced, overtaken and erased. “The market doesn’t play out in a gentle S curve,” he says. “It’s more of a shark fin, with a sharp drop off. You have to realize when something is just a product. It’s not a business.”

Elsewhere, my colleague Polina Marinova has written a fantastic deep dive into the decline of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. It wasn’t technology that disrupted the firm so much as a series of bad decisions around personnel, investing focus, and firm culture. A list of noted VCs who joined Kleiner only to quit after a few years includes Steve Anderson, Aileen Lee, and Matt Murphy. Most recently, the firm’s biggest remaining star, Mary Meeker, decided to go out on her own. Marinova’s story is an instructive read in how success can be hard to maintain. Time for Kleiner to pivot the future, it seems.

Aaron Pressman


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