I’ve always thought of the word ‘disruption’ as having negative connotations – teachers used to use it on bad class reports and train operators bellow it over their announcers when the trains aren’t running on time. Normally, ‘disruptions’ aren’t something we look forward to - so why would anyone try and initiate one?
It’s only when the word ‘disruption’ is matched with the word ‘innovation’ that we begin to see it in a new light. In his new book, “The Road to Reinvention”, Josh Linker, passionately remarks “Disrupt or be disrupted!” - promoting a company culture of panic where political unrest and rapid technological change culminate in a need for a business model that isn’t so much a model but a pot of play-doh, readily mouldable in the face of whatever is thrown at it.
We have to go back to what seems like the dawn of time, the invention of the personal computer, to see the seeds of Disruptive Innovation. Coined by Clayton M. Christensen to portray the personal computer market – it described how the more expensive, higher quality mainframe computers would gradually be ousted out by personal computers. At the time, PC’s were poor quality, cheaper and reached a far less profitable audience. The disruption part was that these seemingly poorer goods would become the mainstay of the market, a development that most overlooked. It was an early example of disruptive innovation and showed how a seemingly obvious development could creep up on executives undetected.
The most interesting aspect of disruptive innovation is the effect it has on decision-making. When does a good decision out stay its welcome and become a bad decision? Executives live and die by bold decisions so backing disruption in the face of success is a challenging thing for them to get their heads around. However hard it is, they have to accept that staunchly defending current successes, when there are opportunities to change up, is dangerous for the long-term future of the company. Whatever the case may be, disruption is here for the long haul so for them the connotations are now overwhelmingly positive.