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Corona Crisis, a Disruptive Opportunity to Retool US Economy for 21st Century

20 Mar, 2020

by Brian J. Grim, Ph.D.

This is part of a daily blog by RFBF President Brian Grim highlighting positive business responses to the pandemic, and part of the COVIDxNOW Global Economic Leaders Consortium, which is seeking to deliver innovative solutions for COVID19

Arthur Herman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, argues that America should take a page from FDR’s ‘arsenal of democracy’ and mobilize industry to fight Covid-19. What he doesn’t offer is the best how-to plan.

For that, the Disruptive Innovation business strategy developed by the late Harvard business scholar Clayton Christensen offers potentially powerful insights. Disruptive Innovation is a process by which a product or service initially takes root in simple applications at the bottom of a market—typically by being less expensive and more accessible—and then relentlessly moves upmarket, eventually displacing established competitors.

We are already experiencing this. As Matthew Dalton, Ruth Bender and Jason Douglas of the Wall Street Journal report: “Companies across the West, from a Kentucky distillery to a French bluejeans maker, are retooling to produce medical equipment for overloaded hospitals and slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Christian Dior perfumes has started making hand sanitizer. A car-parts company is producing hygienic masks. Luxury hotels are becoming makeshift quarantine shelters. An earthmoving-equipment maker and other manufacturers are examining whether they can help make ventilators, the key life-support machines for people with pneumonia caused by the virus.”

The Clayton Christensen Institute outlines three key aspects of what makes a successful Disruptive Innovation:

Enabling Technology

An invention or innovation that makes a product more affordable and accessible to a wider population.

Innovative Business Model

A business model that targets nonconsumers (new customers who previously did not buy products or services in a given market) or low-end consumers (the least profitable customers).

Coherent Value Network

A network in which suppliers, partners, distributors, and customers are each better off when the disruptive technology prospers.


COVIDxNOW is one such initiative that seeks to draw on the principles of Disruptive Innovation to not only solve the crisis, but make our economies and societies stronger. Join us today.