We seem to like to talk about disrupting just about everything these days. I recently did a Google search on “disruptive technology” and it returned over 33.5 million results. That’s a lot of disruption! Let’s talk a little about the word “disruption” and what it means to “disrupt”.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “disrupt” as:
1a: to break apart: rupture three periods of faulting disrupted the rocks—University of Arizona Record
b: to throw into disorder demonstrators trying to disrupt the meeting
2: to interrupt the normal course or unity of … disrupted a bridge game by permanently hiding up the ace of spades … —Scott Fitzgerald can disrupt an industry with new technology
So why are we always pursuing and rewarding disruptive behavior?
I recently read an article in Forbes, by Julian Birkinshaw, dating back to April 3, 2017, that stated: “Disruption may be the most overused term in the business lexicon today. Every startup wants to disrupt the established order. Every incumbent is scared of being disrupted. Disruption is a rallying cry or a bogeyman, depending on where you sit. And no one is immune: if an executive dares to suggest that their industry is free from the threat of disruption, they are accused of being short-sighted or in denial, and heading the way of the Titanic or the T-Rex.”
After the natural disruptions have passed we ban together to rebuild. We try to gain order. We work to bring a sense of stability back to those that have been affected.
Consider the disruptive events that occur in nature; fires, floods, and landslides. We try to predict them but they are unpredictable. We attempt to get out of their way when approach is inevitable. We can try to control them but they have a life of their own and with each action, we can cause a negative reaction that may cost lives. After the natural disruptions have passed we ban together to rebuild. We try to gain order. We work to bring a sense of stability back to those that have been affected. The disruptive nature of the corporate machine doesn’t take that time. It readily searches for those willing to disrupt repeatedly. Those wanting to organize and bring normalcy after substantial disruption are considered obstacles instead of necessity for the continued success of the corporate machine.
Disruption in the corporate machine creates many casualties. It is difficult to maneuver through the corporate fires that rage out of control. Fires are being set constantly and there are those that fan the flames. Those brave enough to try to put out the fires are sometimes the ones that get burned and are then easily removed from the machine as not capable.
We flood the corporate beast with ideas, thoughts, projects that are never able to fully take shape because the rain continues to wash them away. The strong stay at the surface treading water waiting for their ship to come in but eventually they tire from the constant waves of change and drown in the choppy ocean of disruptive debris left behind. We stand at the top of our careers feeling we finally have made it only to be washed away in the landslide of widespread change. Those at the top pushing others down in an effort to keep their precious piece of the shaky ground that may disappear under their feet at any time.
So what is my message? Can we begin to limit our use of the word “disruptive” in everything we do? Can we perhaps spend more time on the rebuilding of what technology has disrupted? Learn to communicate better. Learn to listen to others more. Set our devices down and have real conversations with those around us? Perhaps that which we are searching for as the “next great thing” would come if we just stopped trying to disrupt everything we touch.