a, b, The decay of citations to WOS articles changes with team size and disruption. We selected 95,474 papers with 200–300 citations from 1954 to 2014, and plot the probability of being cited against article age. Longer delays in citation are observed in smaller (a) and more disrupting (b) teams. In b, purple (37,805 papers), blue (4,931 papers) and green (26,698 papers) curves correspond to 0–10, 55–65 and 90–100 percentiles of disruption, respectively. In both panels, curves are smoothed by a running average with a time window of five years. The coloured area shows one standard deviation of these averages. c, d, The Sleeping Beauty index24 captures a delayed burst of attention by calculating convexity in the citation distribution of a particular work over time. The index is highest when a paper is not cited for some substantial period before receiving its maximum (which corresponds to belated appreciation), zero if the paper is cited linearly in the years following publication, and negative if citations chart a concave function with time (which traces early fame diminishing thereafter). We observe that the Sleeping Beauty index percentile decreases markedly with team size (c) and increases with disruption (d) across fields. e, f, The negative correlation between disruption percentile and impact in the short term (within 10 years) turns positive in the long term (over 30 years) for the 166,310 papers published in 1970 (e). The same pattern is observed when all 22,174,022 papers from 1954 to 2014 are used (f). g, h, Achieving substantial citation attention for disruptive work occurs over the long term, if at all, whereas the risk of failure from disruption occurs over both the short and long term. Arrows trace the distance between the mean of future citation success (g) or failure (f) from developing to disrupting work produced by teams of each specified size. The probability of becoming one of the top 1% most-cited articles is higher for developing teamwork (negative disruption, the origin of arrows) within 20 years and higher for disrupting teamwork (positive disruption, the target of arrows) over 30 years across team sizes (g). The probability of becoming one of the tail 10% least-cited articles is almost always higher for disrupting teamwork than developing teamwork across team sizes and time windows (h).