The Innovator’s (and Zachman’s) Dilemma

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Clayton M. Christensen wrote The Innovator’s Dilemma almost a decade ago, but the insight his book provides is classic. Christensen’s research into the disk drive industry lead him to discover four categories of competition:

  1. Availability
  2. Compatibility
  3. Reliability
  4. Economy

Availability answered the question: Can it be done? Compatibility answered the question: Can it be done for me? Reliability answered the question: Can it be done when I need it done? Economy answered the question: Can it be done at the lowest price? The greater the number of customers you can respond to with a “Yes” answer the broader your market. However, your smart competition is looking for the niches you are responding “No” to.

When I look at these four categories I am brought back to John Zachman’s perspectives in the Zachman Framework. These same questions are posed when developing any system:

  1. Conceptual
  2. Contextual
  3. Logical
  4. Physical

The conceputal perspective answers: Can it be done? The contextual perspective answers: Can it be done by us? The logical perspective answers: Can it be routinized? The physical perspective answers: What is the lowest cost to do it? And these questions are asked for each of the focuses (People, Data, Network, Time, Functions and Motives).

So what Christensen really achieves is to provide a substantiation of his tetrad, and consequently Zachman’s, through a solid body of historical data.

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2 Responses to “The Innovator’s (and Zachman’s) Dilemma”

  1. Systema: Some Basics « relationary Says:

    […] brings to mind The Innovator’s Dilemma and shows that the tipping point is between reliability and […]

  2. Tim Brown: Viable, Feasible, Desirable « relationary Says:

    […] enough this perspective is not new.  Clayton M. Christensen in his book Innovator’s Dilemma discusses a four part model that fits nicely with […]


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