The question of what to make of disruptive innovation is complicated by the fact that it is used frequently and carelessly: it is simultaneously a cohesive management theory, an evocative metaphor, and an empty buzzword. Influenced by the work of conceptual historian Reinhart Koselleck, in this chapter I attempt to draw out a few of the shared commonalities that connect various iterations of disruptive innovation. Tracing the history of disruptive innovation from its formal theorization in management theory to its use as a metaphor to describe any manner of sociotechnical change, I identify two characteristics of disruptive innovation: first, an adherence to an organizational strategy that favours smaller start-ups; and second, a concept of technology that informs ideas about the history, pace, and trajectory of technological change.
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