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What do you mean by the term disruptive technology?

Another great question!

Disruptive Technology is a term popularized by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in his book The Innovator's Dilemma.

Christensen believes that the main reason that successful and apparently well-run and well established organizations loose market share, and sometimes go out of business, is that they fail to recognize the distinction between sustaining and disruptive technologies. 

Disruptive and Sustaining Technologies

Sustaining technologies improve the performance of established products.  They are usually developed by successful and well established companies who are often seen as holding a leadership position in their industries.

Adding a new feature to a MIG welder would be an example of a sustaining technology.

Disruptive technologies have features that a few fringe (and generally new) customers value.  Products based on disruptive technologies are typically cheaper to produce, simpler, smaller, better performing, and, frequently, more convenient to use.

The transistor, compared to the vacuum tubes that it subsequently replaced, is an example of this sort of technology. The ZENA mobile welding system is another!

ZENA's new technology, engine driven, DC stick welders are superior to conventional engine driven welders. In addition to better performance and reliability, major innovations and advances in technology, such as ours, almost always result in reductions in the size, and the cost, of the resulting products:

Smaller + Simpler + Better Performing
+ More Reliable + More Convenient +
Lower Cost


mobile welders


The Harvard Business School's
textbook definition of a

Disruptive Technology may (initially) be rejected by conventional distribution channels (Click Here for more on this)

Then, how are disruptive technology products sold?

A disruptive technology is initially embraced by the least profitable (and usually the least wealthy) customers in a market.  For example, in the welding field this sort of customer would include:

It pays to invest in disruptive technology products

Christensen goes on to suggest that the refusal by successful and established companies or distributors to fully embrace disruptive technologies can lead to a sudden loss of dominance in their respective fields, if not their total disappearance. 


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