Sub-theme 62: Managing in the Age of Disruptions

Shahzad (Shaz) Ansari
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Dries Faems
WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany
Raghu Garud
Pennsylvania State University, USA

Call for Papers

There is considerable interest in understanding the dynamics associated with disruptive innovations and the challenges it poses for both incumbents and new entrants (Ansari et al., 2015; Ansari & Krop, 2012; Christensen, 1997; Danneels, 2010). Disruptive innovations are new technologies, products or business models that tend to be financially unattractive and organizationally to incumbents (Christensen, 2006; Markides, 2006). While much of the extant work focuses on how disruption affects incumbents’ performance and survival, disruptions may also change the existing linkages among the different members of a business ecosystem. A business ecosystem consists of a set of interdependent firms that cut cross industry boundaries (Adner, 2012; Iansiti & Levien, 2004; Kapoor & Lee, 2013; Moore, 1996; Wareham et al., 2014). To the extent that a business ecosystem and its members are disrupted, incumbents may react adversely by resisting the innovation, and by counter-mobilizing against the new technologies introduced by entrants (Garud et al., 2002; Garud & Munir, 2008; Glasmeier, 1991; Markman & Waldron, 2014).
This poses a paradox for disruptors – they have to seek the support of the very incumbent firms that are disrupted, a challenge that gets amplified in multisided markets (Eisenmann et al., 2006; Rochet & Tirole, 2003), wherein ecosystem incumbents have conflicting interests. Underlying this paradox are conflicting pressures on disruptors to cooperate and compete simultaneously with incumbents (Bengtsson & Kock, 2000; Brandenburger & Nalebuff, 1996; Gnyawali & Park, 2011). In such situations, an emphasis on the disruptive potential of innovative products/services/platforms may backfire by alienating ecosystem incumbents whose support the disruptor may need to institutionalize the innovation. Indeed, it may be in the disruptor’s interest to frame its innovation as generating value for ecosystem members rather than as potentially upending their value propositions.
Incumbents also confront a dilemma – they must develop innovations that have the potential to disrupt and cannibalize their ongoing operations. i.e. self-disrupt. Trying to support the development of disruptive innovations promising future payoffs within organizational systems focused on deriving maximum returns from current technologies and business models is a well-recognized challenge in the literature (March, 1991). While several solutions have been proposed – e.g., ambidextrous organizations (O’Reilly & Tushman, 2013) – the internal framing of disruptive technologies within organizations as opportunities (rather than as threats) has not been adequately explored in the literature.
We invite empirical and conceptual papers that address issues associated with disruptive innovation. Suggested questions include:

  • What are the different kinds and levels of disruptions and associated dynamics?

  • How do incumbents react to disruptive innovations? How can they depart from their own products and services to offer disruptive innovations?

  • How do disruptors deal with inertia and resistance?

  • How might disruptors frame their disruptive innovations (internally and to ecosystem members), and how does such framing change over time?

  • How might a disruptor’s efforts to address emergent tensions affect its legitimacy and its relational positioning within an ecosystem?

  • What is the impact of a disruptive innovation on related/adjacent industries and business ecosystems?

  • How may the balance between cooperation and competition among firms shift over time?

  • How might regulators tasked with setting and enforcing the rules of business to protect the public’s interest deal with disruptive innovations that cut across existing regulatory categories, thereby blurring regulatory boundaries?



  • Adner, R. (2012): The Wide Lens: A New Strategy for Innovation. New York: Portfolio/Penguin.
  • Ansari, S.A., Garud, R., & Kumaraswamy, A. (2016): “The Disruptor’s Dilemma: TiVo and the U.S. Television Ecosystem.” Strategic Management Journal, 37, 1829–1853.
  • Ansari, S.M., & Krop, P. (2012): “Incumbent Performance in the Face of a Radical Innovation: Towards a Framework for Incumbent Challenger Dynamics.” Research Policy, 41, 1357–1374.
  • Bengtsson, M., & Kock, S. (2000): “‘Coopetition’ in business networks – to cooperate and compete simultaneously.” Industrial Marketing Management, 29, 411–426.
  • Brandenburger, A.M., & Nalebuff, B.J. (1996): Co-opetition. 1. A revolution mindset that combines competition and cooperation. 2. The Game Theory Strategy that’s changing the game of business. New York: Currency Doubleday.
  • Christensen, C. (1997): The Innovator’s Dilemma. When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Christensen, C. (2006): “The ongoing process of building a theory of disruption.” Journal of Product Innovation Management, 23 (1), 39–55.
  • Danneels, E. (2010): “Trying to become a different type of company: Dynamic capability at Smith Corona.” Strategic Management Journal, 32, 1–31.
  • Eisenmann, T., Parker, G,. van Alstyne, M. (2006): “Strategies for two-sided markets.” Harvard Business Review, 84 (10), 92–101.
  • Garud, R., Jain, S., & Kumaraswamy, A. (2002): “Orchestrating institutional processes for technology sponsorship: the case of Sun Microsystems and Java.” Academy of Management Journal, 45, 196–214.
  • Garud, R., & Munir, K. (2008): “From transactions to transformation costs: The case of Polaroid’s SX-70 Camera.” Research Policy, 37 (4), 690–705.
  • Glasmeier, A. (1991): “Technological discontinuities and flexible production networks: the case of Switzerland and the world watch industry.” Research Policy, 20 (5), 469–485.
  • Gnyawali, D., & Park, B. (2011): “Co-opetition between giants: Collaboration with competitors for technological innovation.” Research Policy, 40 (5), 650–663.
  • Iansiti, M., & Levien, R. (2004): The Keystone Advantage. What the New Dynamics of Business Ecosystems Mean for Strategy, Innovation, and Sustainability. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Kapoor, R., & Lee, J. (2013): “Coordinating and competing in ecosystems: How organizational forms shape new technology investments.” Strategic Management Journal, 34, 274–296.
  • March, J.G. (1991): “Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning.” Organization Science, 2, 71-87.
  • Markides, C. (2006): “Disruptive innovation: In need of better theory.” Journal of Product Innovation Management, 23, 19–25.
  • Markman, G.D., & Waldron, T.L. (2014): “Small entrants and large incumbents: A framework of micro entry.” The Academy of Management Perspectives, 28 (2),179–197.
  • Moore, J.F. (1996): The Death of Competition. Leadership & Strategy in the Age of Business Ecosystems. New York: Harper Business.
  • O’Reilly, C., & Tushman, M. (2013): “Organizational ambidexterity: Past, present and future.” The Academy of Management Perspectives, 27, 324–338.
  • Rochet, J., & Tirole, J. (2003): “Platform competition in two-sided markets.” Journal of the European Economic Association, 1 (4), 990–1029.
  • Wareham, J., Fox, P., & Giner, J. (2014): “Technology ecosystem governance.” Organization Science, 25 (4), 1195–1215.

Shahzad (Shaz) Ansari is a Professor of Strategy at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, UK, and Visiting Faculty at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, The Netherlands. He serves on the Editorial Boards of ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Journal of Management’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, and ‘Organization Studies’. Shaz has published in several leading academic journals including ‘AMR’, ‘AMJ’, ‘SMJ’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘JMS’, ‘Research Policy’, ‘Industrial and Corporate Change’, and ‘Organization Studies’.
Dries Faems is Professor of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technological Transformation at the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany. He has served as associate and general editor of the Journal of Management Studies and serves on the Editorial Board of Academy of Management Journal. Dries has published in several leading academic journals such as ‘AMJ’, ‘SMJ’, ‘JOM’, ‘JMS’, ‘Research Policy’, and ‘Organization Studies’.
Raghu Garud is Alvin H. Clemens Professor of Management & Organization, Pennsylvania State University. He has served as the Co-editor of ‘Organization Studies’ and Associate Editor of ‘Management Science’, and has edited several books, including a recent book on “The Emergence of Novelty” (Oxford University Press).