Big data is the next great disruptor. A recent article from CIO opens with the headline, “Disrupt or Die.” So here’s the big question: What exactly does it mean to disrupt? A disruptor initiates fundamental change that may begin with a new process, a new technology, or a new business model. Ultimately, a disruptor can end up disrupting or altering an entire market or industry.
An example of a disruptive technology is downloadable digital media. The ability to download music and video online started out as a small disruption in the overall media market. This disruption grew and grew, ultimately disrupting the CD and DVD market and shifting an entire industry.
Big Data has begun disrupting a few markets, but in the end it will disrupt large and small businesses alike. In fact, it has potential to disrupt every level of our culture. Here are five ways big data could function as business disruptor for innovation in small and large businesses alike (adapted from a McKinsey Global Institute report). 
Increase Speed of Innovation – Releasing big data into the life of a business can speed research and innovating change at ever level of the organization. From R &D to marketing, operations and more, big data can every stakeholder group within a business make faster decisions while increase value.
Manage Performance – Business leaders can study, test, analyze potential changes within an organization utilizing information generated by transactional data. Everything from managing processes to policies to personnel can be studied, adapted (to changing conditions) and managed more effectively.
Create Market Segmentations – In an age of niche marketing, business can better target segments within their market base. Businesses may discover an overlooked market segment or a potential growing segment that could open new streams of revenue.
Improve Decision Making and Reduce Risks – Decision making can draw from larger pools of information instead of smaller samples or anecdotal evidence. By drawing from larger datasets, business leaders can improve predictive decisions and discover previously hidden insights that could prove beneficial for long term change and improvement.
Alter or Introduce New Business Models – In the end, great and more thorough data streams can help businesses introduce new products new services, new business models and more.
 Nash, Kim. Disrupt or Die. CIO, February 1, 2013.
 Dobbs, Richard; Bugin, Jacques; Hung Byers, Angela; Roxburgh, Charles; Manyika, James; Global Institute, McKinsey; Brown, Brad; Chui, Michael (2011-05-13). Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity, June 2011.