History seems to repeat itself when disruptive innovation threatens the established model. Today, you can't have a conversation without hearing about Facebook, Twitter, or texting. Is it another fad…or a disruptive innovation? Consider how different these organizations might be today had they embraced change rather than resisted it.
In 1939 during the waning hours of the Depression, The New York Times printed this comment after reviewing the television at the World's Fair: "the problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued to a screen; the average American family doesn't have time for that…for that reason, if for no other, television will never be a serious competitor of radio broadcasting."
In 1950, only 12 percent of households had a TV. But by 1958, the number had soared to 83 percent. Television took local civil rights issues national and brought the Vietnam War home to our living rooms. Television recorded and broadcast the movements of a massive generation. Television turned youth into an event.
In 1983 only 7 percent of households owned computers. In 1996 only 15 percent of all households in the U.S. had access to the Internet and World Wide Web. By 2004, forty-four percent owned one and over 60 percent of those households had children. And by 2008, 100 percent of American schools provide Internet access. Seventy-five percent of teenagers have mobile phones and a similar number use the Internet.
In 1977 Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Company, then the second largest in the world, told the audience at World Future Society that "there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." In 1983 only 7 percent of households owned computers. By 2004, forty-four percent owned one and over 60 percent of those households had children. And by 2008, 100 percent of American schools provide Internet access, a far cry from the 15 percent of all households in the U.S. that had access in 1995 to the Internet and World Wide Web. Today seventy-five percent of teenagers have mobile phones and a similar number use the Internet.
In 2009 many business leaders consider social networking sites a big waste time, just like the New York Times and Ken Olsen considered TV and PCs a few decades earlier. But consider this: just as newspapers are shutting down, radio stations are cutting back, satellite radio stations Sirius/XM are just about bankrupt, while LinkedIn is adding subscribers at a rate of about one member per second, Twitter surpassed 17 million subscribers and Facebook passed the 200 million mark. A passing fad?
Time will tell. But in this day and age of disruptive change, you can ill afford a wait-and-see attitude.