Hot Or Not: Disruptive Technologies To Watch in 2011, Part 1: The Framework

Last month, I gave a presentation on the top disruptive technologies to watch at the SFAMA monthly meeting. One of the things I did to prepare was to read as many tech predictions for 2011 as I could find. You can see them all collected in one place.

The one thing that struck me was that many of these forecasts didn’t provide a reasoning for why these trends (and not others) were picked. Having done my own predictions and trends to watch forecasts in the past, it was very much a subjective list.

I decided to approach this task from a different perspective. Instead of thinking about the trends first, I wanted to create a framework that would help organizations figure out themselves which disruptive trends they should prioritize and focus on. That’s because companies have limited people, time, and budget to focus on these disruptive technologies that are far-off on the horizon. They can’t focus on everything, so how do you pick and choose?

As a business focused on companies helping companies thrive with disruptive technologies, the work we do at the strategic level focuses on creating a strategy that’s robust and resilient in the face of these new tech forces. What amazes me is that companies can often see these tech disruptions coming from a mile away — and do nothing about it. That’s because they don’t have a way to prioritize, think, and plan a strategy around the technologies that matter. Guiding my thinking in this area is the outstanding work of people like Clay Christiansen, who have been thinking about disruptive innovations for decades.

I believe there are three major drivers that make a disruptive technology important to a particular business. While I frame these at a high level, each organization should look at these drivers to prioritize their focus.

  • User Experience. Does this technology pass the “no manual needed” test? Does it allow people to connect in new ways? Twitter is powerful as a platform, but inscrutable if you’re not familiar or comfortable with @ and DMs — which thereby limits its disruptive power. In comparison, social networks like Facebook are intuitive and provide tremendous value with the new experiences they enable.
  • Business model. Simply put, can you make more money, or save costs because of these new technologies? And by using the technologies better and faster than your competitor, can you gain an advantage? An example of this is YouTube, which when deployed in a strategic way can lower acquisition and support costs for companies.
  • Ecosystem value. The most disruptive technologies though are when ecosystems get impacted. Streaming, on-demand video seemed to be the dominion of cable companies but then along comes Netflix who wasn’t even in the streaming business at all — but has the relationship with movie viewers who were sick of keeping track of red envelopes. Value shifts with the entrant of a new player who is able to tap into this new technology.

I’ll be doing a Webinar on this topic — and sharing the top trends I’m watching — on Thursday, Feb. 17th at 2pm PST (go to this link at that time). I’ll be using’s new Zipcast service, so be one of the first to give it a try with me. I’ll likely be doing repeat presentations, and will update this post with that information.

I welcome your thoughts on the basic outlines of this framework. What am I missing? What else should I be considering? How can I refine my thinking further? And how does your organization go about prioritizing which disruptive technologies to focus on — and creating resilient strategies to thrive with them?

I’ll be going into greater detail the individual technologies over the next few weeks as my research digs deeper into this area, and I hope you’ll come along with me on this journey.

4 thoughts on “Hot Or Not: Disruptive Technologies To Watch in 2011, Part 1: The Framework”

  1. charlene,

    timely topic, and valuable framework. you can bet i’ll be using it soon 🙂 i would add one dimension — stopping power. in the chaos of messaging and shiny objects most consumers are forced (or choose) to deal with, if the disruptive technology isn’t capable of stopping people in their tracks in a meaningful, personalize way, most will move right on by it. using the term disruptive naturally implies some measure of stopping power. but for brands to deliver value or messages, technology must capture the imagination in some meaningful way beyond how easy it is to use.

  2. Hello – interesting article, I would add Viral Essence – If the business model is about p2p and self-seeding, there is no need to market this product as uptake is instant and viral. Webex and Facebook are great examples of these as they have inbuilt mechanisms for getting friends and colleagues to join themsign up. Essentially these diruptive technologies bring benefits and value to users who are happy to seed them because of the win-win scenario: it makes them feel good about themselves as not only as they doing a favour by sharing but they also look good by being ‘in the know’, and of course the cycle is self-perpetuating. Perhaps Win-win would be a more appropriate term.

  3. This is a really interesting post. As a college student, I have only really used these social medias for social purposes. As a PR student, it has been hard for me to grasp how the same sites I have been on since I was 15 can also be used for business promotion. This post is very insightful and helpful to anyone in public relations today.

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