Book | 2016

Lead and Disrupt: How to Solve the Innovator's Dilemma

by Charles A. O'Reilly and Michael Tushman


In the past few years, a number of well-known firms have failed—think of Blockbuster, Kodak, and RadioShack. When we read about their demise, it often seems inevitable—a natural part of "creative destruction." But closer examination reveals a disturbing truth: companies large and small are shuttering more quickly than ever. What does it take to buck this trend? One answer is this: ambidexterity. Firms must remain competitive in their core markets, while also winning in new domains. Clayton M. Christensen has been pessimistic about whether established companies can prevail in the face of disruption. Charles A. O'Reilly III and Michael L. Tushman have a contrasting point of view. The authors explain how shrewd organizations have used an ambidextrous approach to solve their own innovator's dilemma. They contrast these luminaries with companies that—often trapped by their own successes—have been unable to adapt and grow. Drawing on an extensive research program and over a decade of helping companies innovate, the authors present a set of practices to guide firms as they adopt ambidexterity. Senior leadership is crucial here. We discuss the importance of leading in a consistently inconsistent fashion. Readers will come away with a new understanding of how to improve their existing businesses through efficiency, control, and incremental change, while also seizing new markets where flexibility, autonomy, and experimentation rule the day.

Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Disruptive Innovation; Innovation and Management;


O'Reilly, Charles A., and Michael Tushman. Lead and Disrupt: How to Solve the Innovator's Dilemma. Stanford, CA: Stanford Business Books, 2016.