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How Incumbent Firms Respond to Emerging Technologies: Supply-side versus Demand-side Dynamics


California Management Review


Strategy and Entrepreneurship

Authors / Editors

Birkinshaw J

Publication Year



A perennial challenge for executives in established firms is deciding how and when to respond to emerging technologies. This article demonstrates that the way emerging technologies play out in established industries differs according to how the business system is affected. Some have primarily a supply-side effect (on how a firm in the industry creates its product), while others have a primarily demand-side effect (on how users consume the product). Supply-side effects play out over relatively long periods of time in a predictable way, with incumbent firms executing similar strategies though at different speeds. Demand-side effects are faster-acting and more volatile, with incumbents often experimenting with a range of different business models as they seek a viable way forward in a changing market. By understanding these important differences between supply-side and demand-side effects and being able to anticipate the typical patterns of responses from incumbents, executives can make better choices in how and when to invest in emerging technologies.

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