Foot in Mouth: Execs who laughed off Disruption

Foot in Mouth: Execs who laughed off Disruption

Sometimes disruption is staring you right in the face and you can’t help but look the other way. That’s doubly true when you’re the head of a legacy business desperate to stay relevant.

For decades people have either missed it completely or downplayed a new competitor – for some classic clangers, check out the quotes below.

Though some disruptive tech is still relatively embryonic, it’s clear that they will have a profound impact on their respective industries.

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As you’ll read below, time and time again, new players have been dismissed at substantial cost to the bigger players.



RIM’s co-CEO, Jim Balsillie, 2007 wrote off the iPhone:

“It’s kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space with lots of choice for consumers … But in terms of a sort of a sea-change for BlackBerry, I would think that’s overstating it.”

Motorola’s CEO Ed Zander, 2006 speaking at a conference on the iPod:

“Screw the Nano. What the hell does the Nano do? Who listens to 1,000 songs?”

FedEx Executive VP Mike Glenn, 2016 briefing analysts on an earnings call:

“We honestly don’t see a world where Amazon would be a competitor to FedEx, [because] there is no sensible way to compare them.”

US Discover Bank CEO Roger Hochschild said in 2018

“Very few tech companies want to become a bank and are keenly aware of some of the challenges and regulation[s] that come with it. So, I think the risk of some of these tech players getting into banking is a bit overstated.”

BlockBuster CEO Jim Keyes, speaking to Motley Fool in 2008

“Netflix are not even on the radar screen in terms of competition”

Digital Equipment Corporation founder, Ken Olsen in 1977 on the personal computer

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”


(Quotes Source: CB Insights, Research Brief, November 12, 2019)

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