Riding the Wave: How Incumbents Can Surf Disruption Caused by Emerging Technologies


  • Dr. A. Shaji George Independent Researcher, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
  • Dr. T. Baskar Professor, Department of Physics, Shree Sathyam College of Engineering and Technology, Sankari Taluk, Tamil Nadu, India




Disruption, Emerging technologies, Incumbents, Innovation, Startups, Business models, Market leadership, Organizational culture, Core business, Strategic foresight


Emerging technologies have the power to upend industries by offering disruptive innovations that displace established players. Incumbents often struggle to respond before losing significant market share when newcomers introduce breakthrough products, services or business models. However, disruption also creates opportunities for incumbents willing to ride the wave of change through continual innovation, partnerships, and cultural change. This paper examines emerging technologies’ disruptive potential and strategies incumbents can employ to surf the turbulence. The introduction defines key terms like emerging technologies and disruption. It emphasizes understanding disruption considering accelerating technological change. The case studies analyze smartphone and online retail disruptions. The smartphone integrates functions of numerous single-use electronics into one multifunctional mobile computer. Smartphone disruption contributed to BlackBerry’s fall from controlling half the US smartphone market to less than 1% today after it failed to meet changing consumer preferences. Online retail disruption catalyzed by Amazon utilizing infrastructure optimizations and advanced analytics contrasts with brick-and-mortar incumbents struggling to adapt. In response to disruption, incumbents should continually innovate products and business models to meet customers’ evolving technological expectations, even if disruptive to existing cash cows. Establishing outposts where autonomous teams can expeditiously experiment with emerging technologies is another recommendation. Incumbents should identify promising startups to invest in or acquire to access potentially disruptive IP early. Building an open culture welcoming change and uncertainty with flatter, more adaptive organizational structures and better positions incumbents. Rather than just threats, disruptions also provide opportunities to develop new products and services. By lowering barriers to entry, disruptions allow agile moves into new, adjacent markets. Joining forces with startups grants incumbents quicker access to cutting-edge, disruptive tech through partnerships. In conclusion, disruption fueled by emerging technologies defines the new normal. However, incumbents can get ahead of the turbulence by continually innovating, forging alliances with startups, and transforming company culture. Protecting the core business remains important, but so does creative destruction. Incumbents must balance the two or risk being sunk by disruption’s gathering storm.




How to Cite

Dr. A. Shaji George, & Dr. T. Baskar. (2024). Riding the Wave: How Incumbents Can Surf Disruption Caused by Emerging Technologies. Partners Universal International Research Journal, 3(2), 30–52. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.11783204