Top-Down Disruptions?

Strategy+Business magazine offers an interesting article that expands on the current work and thinking of Clay Christensen. What I found most interesting was the distinction between top-down disruptive innovations and grassroots innovations.

Christensen suggests that not only are top-down disruptions as powerful as their smaller scale, grassroots counterparts — but that they may be more easily created and sustained. This can give incumbents a competitive advantage.

What do you think? Is top-down or bottoms-up innovation more powerful?

Add New Comment


  • Dirk Riehle

    IBM's Eclipse project is an example of a top-down disruptive innovation in the open-source space. It is killing the software tools market; well, let's say, it is creating new business models.

  • jim wilde

    I only know from an open source software perspective that the bottom up approach works best. We developed a product/service - Ideascape - around social software. Basically, a content management system that is far superior to systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. On the other hand, we use the top-down approach as well since proprietary vendors are unable to quickly respond to new market demands (disruptive technologies like blogs, wikis, folksonomies.)

  • Jason Womack

    What are you trying to do? Grassroots will get some very interested, very dedicated, very VERY opinionated people convinced they are being heard.

    Top-Down...well that implies that there is already someone doing something that works (or has worked). People who like top-down will enjoy the safety in a path well-trodden. It's easier than bushwacking through manzanita, that's for sure.

    Reading this info, and following the links, the question that I'm left with is: The way things are going, are the "areas of concern" that people will begin expressing fall into/onto tried and true pathways; or, is there a new track being laid for which both bottom-up AND top-down will compete for. Wouldn't that be neat?