The Disruption Distraction

Disruption. We see the word everywhere. Every new tech company is disruptive. Every new app is disruptive. It’s become mandatory to mention disruption with ever increasing hyperbole.

It mostly concerns companies and the “sharing economy”. But the term is spreading more and more, as if unless you say your new smoothie is disruptive in "the smoothie space” you won’t get heard. Consulting is disrupted when companies don’t bill by the hour. Every new social network, enterprise solution and HR system will disrupt work. Even mindfulness is disruptive, apparently only now we have apps to support it!

But most of this talk of disruption is just marketing speak. It’s PR. If it’s not labeled disruptive it’s not relevant. And we buy into it far too easily, looking for easy solutions to problems we don’t take the time to understand. If we did, we might find some truly disruptive ideas. 

There’s nothing hugely disruptive about a new idea shaking up an industry - especially once the new idea is floated on Wall Street and subject to the same financial pressures as any other business. The new idea just becomes part of the same system. 

Disruption should be about fundamental change in systems, not shifts within systems. And ironically, actual disruption is simple: it’s about changes in relationships. 

That’s why concepts like Wirearchy are genuinely disruptive. Wirearchy requires a fundamental change in how we relate to others in and outside of organizations. Sure, social technology can help facilitate these changes, but the technology itself is not the disruptor. 

The behaviour that helps change these relationships are nothing new either. Working Out Loud is great, finally pushing people to check in on their assumptions, build trust, and slowly remove the fear of hierarchy. However, the core concepts of good relationships have never really changed. 

The talk of disruption is a distraction from the real problems that face our societies, economies and cultures. It’s time to focus on rebuilding human relationships before any new app that purports to help do this! 


(I found the fantastic image I used as a noncommercial use image on Flickr, but I can't work out the creator. If you can, please let me know. Link to image is here)