Our understanding of the shifts that disrupt businesses, industries, and sectors has profoundly improved over the past 20 years: We know far more about how to identify those shifts and what dangers they pose to incumbent firms. But the timing of technological change remains a mystery. Even as some technologies and enterprises seem to take off overnight (ride sharing and Uber; social networking and Twitter), others take decades to unfold (high-definition TV, cloud computing). For firms and their managers, this creates a problem: Although we have become quite savvy about determining whether a new innovation poses a threat, we have very poor tools for knowing when such a transition will happen.
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