Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 recently wrote an article about newspapers and the web in general, and about the Washington Post in particular: What Newspapers Still Don't Understand About the Web. Karp feels that the Post doesn't really get the Web - the web site is essentially a reflection of the Print newspaper, rather than leveraging the unique possibilities offered online.
The New York Times, on the other hand, definitely gets it, and is only moving further ahead in leveraging the web. For example, in technology, the Bits blog regularly shows up on Techmeme, and the NYT is already on twitter.
How does this happen? How can two direct competitors in the same field react so differently to the same change in their industry?
According to Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor, a large part of the answer lies in the way companies react to a disruptive innovation in their field. In their latest book, The Innovator's Solution, a sequel to the highly popular book detailing the Innovator's Dilemma, they handle exactly the issue described by Karp's post, in a more general way.
What Christensen and Raynor found is that the way a successful incumbent company responds to a disruptive change in their domain depends on the part of the organization that is tasked with responding to that change.
There are two primary ways in which the company can respond: the disruptive change can be viewed as a threat, so that the company pumps resources into trying to harness the new process, technology or idea as an evolutionary improvement to its existing business model; or the disruptive change can be viewed as an opportunity, in which case the company tries to find the appropriate market or business model that naturally fits the new paradigm.
Obviously, if the existing operational part of the organization - one that is already very successful - tries to respond to the change, the main interest is in preserving the status quo, and the big change is seen as a threat to be neutralized; if instead, the company forms a small, semi-autonomous entity tasked with responding to the change, unhampered by the existing business model, then the big change is likely to be seen as an opportunity to be exploited.
There are many other fields where this type of change is taking place. One example is the iPhone, which is clearly proving to be a major disruptive innovation for handheld computers, causing existing market leaders such as Palm, Microsoft and RIM to scramble.
Are there others? How are they responding to the disruption? Leave a comment below and let us know!