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Inhibitors of disruptive innovation capability: a conceptual model

Marnix Assink (Epson Europe B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 1 April 2006




The purpose of this paper is to examine why large firms often fail to develop disruptive innovations. This study identifies several key inhibitors or barriers that hinder those developments. A conceptual model is presented that examines the interrelationship and interdependence of these inhibiting factors, in an effort to provide a better understanding of how companies can improve their disruptive innovation capabilities.


This paper focuses on disruptive innovation rather than incremental innovation and is limited to research findings on large corporations. Recently published works (1990‐2004) have examined success factors as the determinants of disruptive innovation capability. A complementary approach is to examine the inhibitors of disruptive innovation and investigate their interrelationship and interdependence. The study is based on an extensive review of literature available, and examines both internal and external inhibiting factors to develop a conceptual model of disruptive innovation capabilities.


Many large corporations fail to develop disruptive innovations. It is argued that the basic constraints to creating successful disruptive innovation stem in large part from several inhibiting factors, and we have identified different clusters of interrelated and partly‐interdependent inhibitors: the inability to unlearn obsolete mental models, a successful dominant design or business concept, a risk‐averse corporate climate, innovation process mismanagement, lack of adequate follow‐through competencies and the inability to develop mandatory internal or external infrastructure. The conceptual disruptive innovation capability model provides a better understanding of the interrelationship among these limiting factors. There is still a vast gap between intention and actual disruptive innovation capability. Developing distinctive capabilities to bridge this gap should be an integral part of a company's strategy for growth.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is based on an extensive review of literature on disruptive innovation barriers. In it is proposed a conceptual interrelationship model of innovation inhibitors as a basis for determining and improving a company's disruptive innovation capability. It is suggested that, in addition to the theory presented in this paper, further empirical research studies be carried out to validate the key inhibitors of our conceptual model, their interrelationship and interdependence, and the impact on disruptive innovation development.


The study is intended to provide practical insight into clusters of inhibiting factors that prevent large organisations from improving their disruptive innovation capability. The conceptual model facilitates the development of distinctive competencies and mindsets to improve these capabilities.



Assink, M. (2006), "Inhibitors of disruptive innovation capability: a conceptual model", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 215-233.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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