What are disruptive technologies, you ask? The term was first used by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen to describe a new technology that unexpectedly displaces an established technology. In his book, The Innovator's Dilemma, Christensen separates new technology into two categories: sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining technologies are based on incremental improvements to an established technology, whereas, disruptive technologies can be defined as "simple, convenient-to-use innovations that initially are used by only unsophisticated customers at the low end of markets". Christensen has stated that large companies tend not to pay attention to these disruptive technologies because they don't satisfy the demands of high-end users - at least, not at first.
Christensen stated that because these radical innovations initially emerge in small markets, they can, and many times do, become competition for established products. If a company is only prepared to deal with "sustaining technologies," or technologies that improve product performance, not disruptive technologies, it may fail.
McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) has published a summary report on emerging disruptive technologies having the potential to generate up to $33 trillion a year into the worldwide economy by 2025. MGI's report (Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy) describes 12 potential disruptive technologies. Here is a sampling of MGI's disruptive technologies: