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Disruptive technologies, “Black Swans” and corporate innovation strategy

Joseph Calandro Jr. (Fordham University)
Vivek Paharia (Fordham University)

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 10 December 2019

Issue publication date: 20 January 2020




The books, The Innovator’s Dilemma and Fooled by Randomness were best-sellers, and both books’ authors rightly have legions of followers. Nevertheless, the dynamics each author analyzed so well continue to plague many executives. Why? Is there some way to close the analytical loop between these two extremes? Put another way, is there a practical method of being productive and profitable in “normal” environments while at the same time working to capitalize on the impact of volatile disruption? This paper presents a practical approach for doing so that builds on prior research.


This paper differentiates between the normal, linear environment of “business as usual” (BaU) and the volatile, nonlinear environments of disruption to both upside and the downside. It then profiles how to navigate each environment, illustrated by way of examples.


Our findings, which are supported by historical and contemporary examples, are that leading executives consistently navigate the environments of BaU and disruption due to explicit strategic decisions based on an “information advantage,” which is knowledge that their competitors either do not have or choose to ignore. Such advantages are monetized by efficient operations in BaU and by economically, which is to say strategically, benefiting from disruptive volatility to the upside and/or avoiding it on the downside, over time.

Practical implications

Managerial focus should be directed to potentially disruptive innovations and other kinds of ambiguous threats, which could develop to be strategically significant over time, and these need to be tracked in a meaningful way. To benefit from an information advantage, executives must selectively – that is, strategically – make small investments that could either payoff dynamically or economically mitigate the risk of extreme losses over time.


This paper offers executives a practical explanation why the environments of BaU and disruption must be analyzed and planned for separately by different functions. Doing so facilitates the efficient realization of corporate goals and objectives over time in both normal (linear) and highly volatile (nonlinear) environments.


Calandro, J. and Paharia, V. (2020), "Disruptive technologies, “Black Swans” and corporate innovation strategy", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 29-35.



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