‘We’re going to Disrupt this Technology’

October 7, 2010

Grappling with a disrupting definition.

It sounds to me, having read around the topic a little bit, that the actual definition and consequences of Disruptive Technology is still being debated.

The term is was first coined by Harvard business school professor Clayton M. Christensen in his book ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma‘ in which he separated new technology into two categories: sustaining and disruptive.

‘Sustaining technology relies on incremental improvements to an already established technology.’ Where as, ‘disruptive technology lacks refinement, often has performance problems because it is new, appeals to a limited audience, and may not yet have a proven practical application’

…but crucially, the new technology can overtake what has been established and advance products or methodologies beyond what was possible with the original product or idea.

‘Avoid comparing disruptive with established technology – the established will nearly always look better. What is critical is to measure the trajectory of performance improvement achievable in the technology against the trajectory of improvement demanded in the market.’ (Clayton and Christensen.)

Conventional improvement in the business and technological world similarly arises through the linear evolution as a product develops. The disruptive period of upheaval comes when a new product breaks through into the market. It could be a change in method of conducting business or organisation (e.g Tele Marketing), or an actual invention stemming from a scientific discovery (e.g. the development of a transistor), or just a good idea that a small number of people have developed for their own specific requirements and needs which has gradually become more popular.

This is the area of ‘lead-users’ developing their own methodologies in Disruptive Technology that we are interested in as we study our Studio Unit at the University of Edinburgh.

Two theorists: Raynor and Danneels had their definitions:

‘Disruption is a process and not an event…it might take decades for the forces to work their way through the market, but they’re always at work’

‘Disruptive Technologies tend to be associated with the replacement of incumbents by entrants’

By recognising what Disruptive Technologies can provide in the context of architecture, theorists have begun questioning if the term ‘construction industry’ narrows scope for innovation and the need for analysis about how receptive or resistant building trades are new technologies.

Can our methods change in order to improve our buildings?

This is where our new Studio Unit begins and the connection is made to the Blog title ‘Concrete Fabrication’.



Fabric Mesh


I and two other students at the University of Edinburgh are currently aiming to ‘disrupt’ the conventional methods of casting concrete. The traditional methods commonly use solid formwork that requires substantial labour and material with varying results and quality. We aim, under the guidance of our tutor Remo Pedreschi to explore and push the possibilities of using fabric as formwork in terms of form, texture, strength, ease of construction, quality of result, time and cost.

I intend to use this blog to publish our discoveries and discussions, with the intention of sharing information and as a method of recording the progress of the project.

Hopefully this will be an interesting process as we endeavor to disrupt this technology…


One Response to “‘We’re going to Disrupt this Technology’”

  1. Koen said

    The disruptive technology reminds me of the term “creative destruction” invented by Joseph Schumpeter, a famous economist.

    You did a good job writing you first blog post, keep u the good work!

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