The potential for disruptive innovation typically emerges when you lack the quality or value to lead the field and gain a superior position in the overall market – but you can adequately serve a small niche. If the niche you occupy continues to grow fast enough and your technology progressively improves, you’ll overtake the leaders – disrupting their established market position. Disruption can come about by accident or through an intentional effort.
Newspapers used to reap major revenues from selling classified ads. Then Craigslist came along and offered consumers a free version of classifieds. In doing so Craigslist disrupted a long-established mainstream market. Craig initially provided his list to friends as a convenience and community service, so his disruption was not really intentional. But after his idea worked he realized its value and began to engage in purposeful, deliberate disruptive innovation.