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The Pebble and the Avalanche
How Taking Things Apart Creates Revolutions

Book Web Site

The book now has its own web site at The Pebble and the Avalanche, where you can find more information, including a blog that applies the ideas in the book to current events.

Technology, Revolutions, and the Business of Technology

Avalanche Book Cover

The Pebble and the Avalanche: How Taking Things Apart Creates Revolutions.

Written for a business audience, the book explains how to understand, create, and apply revolutions in business and technology. (Larger image of cover here

The book is based around a central theme: why do certain kinds of innovations — ideas and inventions — start revolutions in business and technology?

Here's a list of some key revolutions in technology that happened over the past thirty years:

What do all these revolutions have in common? The answer is very straightforward: all of these revolutions were started by taking things apart. It's a process that I call "disaggregation," and here's how it works:

Revolution Disaggregation
Internet Protocols — the "traffic rules" that computers use to talk to each other — were made common to all computers They were no longer tied to each vendor's proprietary operating system.
World Wide Web Documents could be read on any computer using a browser program. Prior to the Web, each document had its own special program that you had to load on your computer.
Long Distance Phone Service Breaking AT&T apart into separate companies let competition rule and drove the price of long distance calls down to nearly nothing.
Personal Computers
  • The first revolution started when operating systems (the most famous being Windows) could be run on computers from any manufacturer, a big change from the days when each manufacturer had their own operating system — in other words, the operating system became disaggregated from the hardware.
  • The second revolution began when computer manufacturers used standardized parts instead of hardware tied to their machine only; for example, disk drives are commodities instead of custom-built.

The result of these two innovations: highly capable yet very inexpensive computers.

There's plenty of other examples in the book, along with information to help understand how disaggregation works and why it creates revolutions. The book shows how to categorize the types of changes: Does it change the authority over technology? Does it change the ownership of the business? The book lists the expected benefits of disaggregation which crop up time and again, and how to work backwards from benefits you'd like to the disaggregation you need.

The book's web site, along with its blog with comments on current revolutions in science and technology, is now online (and being expanded).

Table of Contents, Index

You can read the Table of Contents and the Index to get a better idea of what the book is all about.

Available Online

Here are slides from a recent talk about the ideas and concepts in the book.

You can see the book's catalog sheet in PDF format. Excerpts will be available soon.

How To Order

Published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, the book is now shipping from online merchants. You can order from Amazon, from Tattered Cover Book Store, from other fine online merchants, or directly from Berrett-Koehler.

If you'd like to be notified when articles are published, chapters are posted to this web site, or when the book is published, please contact us.

Title The Pebble and the Avalanche: How Taking Things Apart Creates Revolutions
Publication Date November 14, 2005
Format Hardcover, 200 pages, 6-1/8 by 9-1/4 inches
Price $27.95
ISBN 978-57675-294-4

To see books by other Berrett-Koehler authors, visit the BK Authors Web Ring.