in an industry often comes from the gradually accumulated effects of
many interacting forces rather than a sudden change, business analyst John Sviokla writes, and what happens to industries impacted by this multifaceted dynamic is a phenomenon he calls "dematurity."
"You can think of dematurity as a crescendo of mini disruptions that add up to great effect," Sviokla writes in Strategy+Business. "It will hit most industries sooner or later; it has struck sectors as
varied as soft ware development, entertainment and defense contracting.
It's happening right now in the U.S. in healthcare and electric power
generation." And results can be surprising.
The term, coined in the early 1990s by former Harvard Business School professors William Abernathy and Kim Clark,
describes what happens when many small companies rapidly adopt multiple
innovations that can rejuvenate practices in an old industry. Sviokla
explains the professors were thinking of the U.S. auto industry, which
was profoundly challenged by Japanese competition, the quality movement
and lean management. But instead of collapsing, the big three Detroit
automakers adopted the tools and techniques of their competition and
aimed for better quality and customer satisfaction.
Sometimes disruption actually helps market leaders. Wharton Management Professor David Hsu, MIT Professor Matthew Marx, and University of Toronto Professor Joshua Gans studied the speech recognition industry
and found start-ups that introduce disruptive technologies with long
term potential are more likely to end up licensing their innovations to
established businesses, or agreeing to be acquired, than they are to
become rivals. They say that's because start-ups are eager to prove the
value of their innovation, and once they do, they often form alliances
with the established businesses or merge with them. These authors call
that a cooperative commercialization strategy that sometimes has the
effect of preserving the status quo. Read their paper here.
says while dematurity can make industries young again, it can also
threaten individual industries if leaders haven't seen it coming in time
to prepare. He cites five "often overlooked but genuinely prescient"
signals of change:
New customer habits:
Mobile phones used only for voice communication in the 1990s didn't
dramatically change people's habits. When people began to use phones for
text messages, reading magazines and books, listening to music, and
playing games, habits changed. They began taking pictures, shopping
online and using multiple apps so business and pricing models changed in
a large group of industries that once operated independently. The same
thing happened in IT when access to services by high speed cloud
connections began to replace web based software.
New Production Technologies:
A recent survey showed more than two thirds of 100 manufacturers report
some use of 3D printing, a burgeoning technology that will have major
impact in many industries in the manufacture of goods, supply chains,
product development, and transportation.
New Lateral Competition:
The emergence of healthcare outlets in bog box stores and retail
clinics is creating competition for primary care providers and hospital
emergency rooms, which will have to adapt. Old and new businesses in
healthcare are trying to keep people out of doctors' offices with
services to promote exercise, control weight, manage disease and offer
When regulations appear to pave the way for self-driving cars, major
dematurity can be expected in public mass transit and private
New Means of Distribution:
Digital infrastructure has already dematured media and entertainment.
Regulations allowing expanded commercial use of unarmed aerial
vehicles-drones-would have major impact in fields such as law
enforcement, insurance, and delivery of emergency supplies to remote
areas. Amazon plans to use drones to deliver merchandize, and some
analysts predict drones are the transportation of the future.
Sviokla is co-author of The Billionaire Effect: What Extreme Producers Can Teach Us about Breakthrough Value. He is a principal and advisory innovation leader with PwC. Read his Strategy +Business article here and the David Hsu article here.