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Disruptors Sell What Customers Want and Let Competitors Sell What They Don’t

Image credit: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/

Image credit: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/

Disruptors Sell What Customers Want and Let Competitors Sell What They Don’t

Michael Blanding

HBS Working Knowledge | 2 February 2015

By “decoupling” activities that consumers value from the ones they don’t, enterprising digital startups are wreaking havoc on established firms. Thales Teixeira discusses his research on the second wave of Internet disruption.

Over the past two decades, entire industries have been disrupted by Internet competitors who “unbundled” their content and delivered it to consumers in new ways. Newspapers lost out to Google and Craigslist, record companies to iTunes and Spotify, and travel agencies to Expedia and Hotels.com.

Despite this upheaval, it seemed some businesses were immune to the digital onslaught—companies whose products and services couldn’t be easily turned into 1’s and 0’s and put online. “A television set can’t be digitized. A telephone can’t be digitized. So those companies seemed to be safe,” says Thales Teixeira, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School in the Marketing unit.

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