It has been nearly three decades since Innosight cofounder Clay Christensen first introduced the concepts of disruptive innovation in his classic HBR article “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave,” followed by his seminal book, The Innovator’s Dilemma.

It is safe to say that these core concepts have gained traction. Today, disruption is everywhere, with startups and incumbents alike working tirelessly to create innovative products and anticipate shifts that will upend industries and remake markets.

But so too are the failures, as many companies keep coming up short in their efforts to harness the techniques.

This struggle spans a broad array of industries. Automakers and mobility companies invested heavily in autonomous vehicles, yet widespread adoption remains on the distant horizon. Electric vehicle growth has slowed, and carmakers are scaling back production. Utilities and energy companies retreated from renewables.

Even tech giants fall short. Facebook pivoted away from the metaverse after rebranding itself Meta and losing almost $50 billion betting on a next-generation internet. Google’s parent re-structured its “X” unit dedicated to moonshot.

So why is disruption so hard?

In our new article in Harvard Business Review, the root cause of failure often comes down to practical challenges of execution that are linked to culture, organization, and market development. These obstacles are often glossed over in more idealistic, retrospective versions of how disruption happens but, in practice, play a crucial role.

To beat the odds, companies need strategies to overcome four common challenges.

  1. Navigate the fog of disruption.
  2. Focus on market development.
  3. Master stakeholder buy-in.
  4. Create a disruption-ready culture.