When testing hypotheses, sometimes we encounter an unpredicted result. Based on years of application and the history of science in the West, we see clearly that science progresses not by way of corroboration—strictly speaking, no hypothesis is confirmed by “successful” experiments—but by way of taking anomalies seriously.
Consider the archetypical scientist, Albert Einstein. Without the failure of the Michelson-Morley experiments to measure “ether drift,” Einstein would never have begun to consider the puzzle of why light always moves at a constant speed.
In my work with Clayton Christensen, we came to recognize that the best path for continued research on Disruptive Innovation was to focus on anomalies. This led to a better understanding of how different circumstances affect the manifestation of disruption. And, more importantly, it helped us to understand where Disruptive Innovation should not be applied.
When seeking progress in product science, we emphasize not the expected, but the unexpected—anomalies—as the engine for progress.