The Atlantic: The Disruption Myth

September 23, 2014 — Leave a comment


Is disruption a myth? Is it a nice to have, a thing you’re supposed to do, or is it an innovative business driver? The Atlantic’s Justin Fox posits the question given the lack of significant market-changing technological leaps.

I tend to believe people are more entrepreneurial than ever, but are focusing that spirit within existing channels (namely online, in creating blogs/boards/etc, and through apps) or ways that can’t be directly measured (like the “innovative” way I fixed my rotting bathroom floor instead of calling a professional craftsman).

For brands and companies today, the bar shouldn’t be set as high as electricity and internal-combustion engines, as Fox notes below. Rather, I think self-disruption and diversification should be the cornerstone of every company looking to compete, grow and truly impact the world.

Key quotes from the piece:

But it’s also possible that a decades long accretion of regulation has come to weigh on new-business formation and growth; that for all the tales of Silicon Valley swashbuckling, most Americans have become more cautious and less entrepreneurial; or that—and this argument springs straight from Christensen’s keyboard—the pressures of the financial market and a preoccupation with corporate financial metrics have left most businesses “afraid to pursue what they see as risky innovations” and focused instead on cutting costs.

Still, some companies are pursuing risky innovations and disrupting established industries. Business publications are full of stories about them: Google and Uber and Amazon and Salesforce and Workday and many more. They just haven’t had a measurable impact on the overall economy yet. One group of economists says to give it a few years— the adoption of new technologies has always affected productivity in fits and starts, and the rise of smartphones and cloud computing and Big Data will show up in the numbers eventually. The other view is that today’s technological innovations pale in significance beside electricity and the internal combustion engine—they’ll have some positive impact, but growth will be slower than it used to be.

What these arguments share is the conviction that, however sick many of us may be of hearing about it, disruptive innovation is something we need more of, not less. We, in this case, means some abstract collection of current and future humans—not people with jobs that are about to get disrupted out of existence. The uneven dispersal of rewards from technological change is always a problem, and may be especially fraught this time around. But uneven progress still seems better than  no progress at all.

via The Disruption Myth – Justin Fox – The Atlantic.

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