Date of Award

Summer 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management

Committee Director

Rafael Landaeta

Committee Member

Resit Unal

Committee Member

Ariel Pinto

Committee Member

Anil Nair


Radical innovations are often characterized by a rapid shift from one dominant design to another. The theories of discontinuous and disruptive innovation present two important and independent explanations for why these shifts occur. This research tests the usefulness of combining these two theories into a single integrated typology. First, a typology is constructed that classifies shifts in dominant designs according to the theories of discontinuous and disruptive innovation. Next, the usefulness of this typology is tested with a taxonomy derived from 100 randomly selected shifts in dominant designs from across a broad range of industries. This research reconciles the theories of discontinuous and disruptive innovation and proposes an integrated typology to assist managers in determining the circumstances under which each theory is best applied. Additionally, the resulting taxonomy suggests anomalies—shifts in dominant design that are not well classified by either theory—that illuminate promising avenues for future research.