Summary of The Laws of Disruption

Looking for the book?
We have the summary! Get the key insights in just 10 minutes.

The Laws of Disruption book summary
Start getting smarter:
or see our plans




  • Applicable
  • Innovative


Business strategist Larry Downes, author of Unleashing the Killer App, is much more specific than most authors about how digital technologies are changing the world – and why technology will advance even more and have more impact. While he addresses numerous issues that have received lots of attention already, Downes also looks beyond the headlines and the obvious implications of digital technology to examine the root causes of change. He pays informed attention to the law and legal structures. He also draws parallels between the digital revolution and the social changes wrought by other technologies, showing how such change ripples through the economy. He presents his findings as nine “laws of disruption,” which, somewhat confusingly, are the change agents of the “Law of Disruption.” This forward-looking book is fun, lively and useful. getAbstract recommends it to executives who are trying to plan for a shifting future and to those intrigued by digital technologies or social structures.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How nine powerful change agents called the “laws of disruption” work;
  • How the digital revolution is changing society and
  • What you – and the legal system – must do to adapt.

About the Author

Larry Downes, a partner with the Bell-Mason Group, is a nonresident fellow at the Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society and the author of Unleashing the Killer App.



The Digital World and the “Law of Disruption”

When a new technology is introduced, society must adapt. To understand how a major technological change creates far-reaching ripples, consider the effect of replacing metal stirrups with “flexible leather” stirrups in Europe during Charlemagne’s reign. This simple innovation provided medieval knights with more balance, efficacy and deadly success. Essentially, the leather stirrup “saved Europe.” But, rather than pay their knights directly, kings gave them land and the right to collect rent. This led to a structured feudal society that outlasted – by 1,000 years – the initial need to pay victorious mounted knights. If you buy property in some areas of London even today, you pay “tribute to the Duke of Westminster.”

Consider the effect of another disruptive technology, the railroad, which changed shipping in 19th century America. The courts had no “clear precedent to determine ‘fair’ rates” for rail shipping. Attempts to adapt old laws proved useless. As famous attorney Brook Adams argued, “The character of competition has changed and the law must change to meet it, or collapse.” The legal system had to accommodate this...

More on this topic

Customers who read this summary also read

Move Fast and Break Things
What To Do When Machines Do Everything
Future Politics
Digital @ Scale
The Inevitable

Related Channels

Comment on this summary