To read this content please select one of the options below:

Lifting the lid on disruption fever

Michael Wade (IMD Business School, Lausanne, Switzerland)
Didier C-L Bonnet (IMD Business School, Lausanne, Switzerland)
Jialu Shan (IMD Business School, Lausanne, Switzerland)

Journal of Strategy and Management

ISSN: 1755-425X

Article publication date: 23 July 2020

Issue publication date: 13 October 2020




This paper provides evidence based quantification of both “actual” disruption of industries as well as a measure of disruption “hype”. The data cover a seven-year period from 2012 to 2018 across 12 industries. The authors’ complemented the research with a survey of 2000 business executives. Whereas there has been some measures of disruption in the past, no research to the authors’ knowledge has been conducted that measure both actual disruption and disruption hype.


The current fascination with disruption hides an awkward truth, we assume it is happening, but do we really know for sure? Disruption is rarely defined and almost never measured. Equally, the influence of the hype around disruption is hard to gauge. The authors do not know to what extent hype is driving management action. This is worrisome as the disruption “noise level” can lead to unhealthy collective thinking and bad business decision-making. Some rigour is required. To craft winning strategies, executives should take a more evidence-based approach for managing disruption.


The authors’ failed to find evidence of any correlation between the hype around an industry disruption and actual disruption within that industry. So the important conclusion for executives is “do not believe the hype”. We found some surprising differences by industry between actual disruption and the hype by industry.

Research limitations/implications

Disruption is one of the most talked about subject in the field of strategy, yet there is little quantification. With this research, the authors’ aim is to advance the fact-based understanding of disruption. Disruption hype is never measured but has a strong influence on executives. The authors have quantified hype using online, search, social media and survey sources. Much more is needed to be able to measure hype more accurately.

Practical implications

The authors’ recommend a set of practical guidelines for executives to support fact-based strategy formulation: analysis of actual disruption, scenario planning and strategic responses.

Social implications

The “noise” around industry disruption is so high that it is assumed to happen. Much of what is written is quasi-fake news. The authors need to rebalance the debate with fact-based analysis.


To authors’ knowledge, there has never been any fact-based analysis of both actual and hype disruption levels.



Wade, M., Bonnet, D.C.-L. and Shan, J. (2020), "Lifting the lid on disruption fever", Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 495-501.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles