A key part of the theory-building process, Clay likes to explain, is to identify and study anomalies that enable you to hone in on the causal mechanism behind your new proposed categorization of phenomena. For the last two decades, Clay has used his platform as professor at HBS to do just this — discover and study anomalies. With the help of each new crop of MBA students, eager to explore and test the limit of new frameworks, Clay has continued to improve our understanding of disruption theory.

Here’s a short video clip from a recent working session in Clay’s office in which he describes the implication of the variability in the trajectory of performance improvement:

So what are the anomalies that enabled this refinement to the original theory? For starters, there were three: hotels, aviation, and higher education.

As Clay explains in the video, higher education and hotels were able to resist disruption for a long time because there was no upstart that successfully leveraged an enabling technology until online learning and platforms such as Airbnb came along.

In aviation, it turns out we mislabeled our y-axis; rather than increasing fares, the label should be miles per route flown.

What other industries do you think we should be looking at? Have you ever noticed flat growth in the trajectory of performance that customers can absorb? How do you go about defining the y-axis when you’re considering how disruption might shake your industry? In your understanding of disruption theory, where are the anomalies? We’d love to take a closer look at them.

Tracy Kim Horn, Community Manager, Forum for Growth & Innovation