Summary of Lead and Disrupt

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  • Applicable
  • Concrete Examples
  • For Experts


Stanford professor Charles A. O’Reilly III and Harvard professor Michael L. Tushman convincingly argue that the traditional or established “exploit” business model and a new “explore” business model require different kinds of management. Further, they teach, “ambidextrous leaders” should be able to support both facets of a company at the same time. They offer detailed practical examples from the corporate world, informative war stories from Amazon, IBM, and others to illustrate and underline their theoretical points. O’Reilly and Tushman provide a template for how to survive in a fast-changing business sector. They touch on companies like Blockbuster and Kodak, which are now synonymous with failure to react to disruptive change. If your company might be at risk of joining that list or wants to get out in front with exploratory innovation, getAbstract recommends taking the professors’ class.

About the Authors

Charles A. O’Reilly III is the Frank E. Buck Professor of Management at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Michael L. Tushman is the Paul R. Lawrence MBA Class of 1942 Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.



Faster Change and Quicker Failure

Change is getting faster in the business world. Starting in 1935, a company might stay on the S&P 500 for 90 years, but in 2016 the stock market index replaced – on average – one company every two weeks, so the trend toward replacement is accelerating. Business leaders of previous generations had the luxury of time. They could respond incrementally to changing markets and technology. Today, leaders who are lauded as market giants in year one can be in serious trouble by year five or sooner.

This doesn’t apply to all business sectors, but if your sector is vulnerable to disruption from new technology or market change, your present profitable capabilities and your business model could be at risk. In this arena, make a distinction between “incremental” change and more disruptive “punctuated” change. Incremental change calls for enhancing today’s core capabilities. Punctuated change challenges those capabilities, as it tests your structures, processes and culture.

What kind of change does your business face? Do you even have the luxury of knowing for sure? As recently as 2004, senior Blockbuster executives were...

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