What is 'Dirspution' for you?


'Disruption' is a very popular term at the moment in many business areas. Given the global strategy remit of this executive panel and to set its agenda going foward, how would you describe disruption, in few words?

Global Strategy
Change Leadership
Marcella B
29 months ago

6 answers


I am more on digital so I will quickly reply on this. Digital disruption is about how technology transform industries and how the leadership is on it. It has a big impact on the previous business models and could have a quick impression on these. It has an important impact on consumers expectations and requests. It could suddenly provide with new opportunities (or threats) and you need to be prompt in taking (or tackling) these.

Paolo Beffagnotti
29 months ago

Here's an overview of the word from the person who popularised it in the business world

More generally, the term is used differently as just another example of the well known style preferences we all have for change and innovation. Some people prefer to protect and improve what we have already - that can be done quickly but it starts from 'what is'. Some people prefer to start from a blank page and do something different, often labelled as radical or disruptive.

Most use of the term in the media comes from people who fall into the latter category, who like novel ideas but don't often stop to think about how to make them happen because they are too busy moving on to the next shiny idea.

The Incremental-Radical scale can actually apply to 3 things:

  • how different the technology/product/service/process etc is from what exists
  • how much more value or benefits its delivers than what exists
  • how chaotic the process of implementation is

We've all seen projects which change things a lot, cause chaos in the process, and don't deliver much in the way of benefits. Equally you can find projects where small changes, easy to achieve, can deliver relatively big benefits. Most debate around innovation and disruption says more about the biases of the people involved than what will actually happen.

Alan A
29 months ago

For me, disruption is the effect of invention.
(I would say that, I'm an inventor)
A creative act with a destructive effect.
The basis of Joe Schumpeter's theory of Austrian Economics, 'Creative destruction' is the perpetual change upon which economies are built.
Even if you go back to Adam Smith, the very point of capitalism, the creation of capital, was to reinvest in improved systems, a constant commitment to reinvention.
To that end, disruption can be seen as a positive pursuit. But it is always best to be the disruptor rather than the disrupted.

Disruption is not something you adapt to by following the flock - they sell online, so I'll sell online - it is something that fundamentally shifts the behaviour of people.
The smartphone was a disruptive technology, the electric car is not.
The system of a car still performs the 'job' (see Clay Christensen's job theory) that the car is designed to do.
However, if you make car engines, the electric engine is a disruptive technology.

I'm being quite prescriptive here, but I think it's important to understand what the word really means.
We talk a lot about innovation too, but innovation is about improving the component parts of a system (see Russ Ackoff's work) whereas invention is about designing new systems.

Great question by the way.

Don Smith
29 months ago
Thx Don, I agree with you about the importance of understanding what the term really means. I have been exposed a lot to a misusage of the same in too many occasion.... - Marcella 29 months ago

Without getting into nuance, disruption is providing customers with an appealing, differentiated value offering that can't be easily matched by incumbents. It is determined more by the business model than by the technology employed to deliver it.

Michael Fruhling
29 months ago

“Disruption” is in fashion today, to stop the current and give opportunity to the new. Disruption does not automatically mean that something will be implemented, but that a break can be used to think about the status quo and potential alternatives. A new decision making process will choose between continuing on the known path or change to a new one.

For an individual regular disruptions are required to avoid a “tunnel vision” and related behavior risks. In our modern times it gets more and more complicated to get a break, as thanks to connected smart devices employees read and answer their emails not only inside their regular working hours, but also before and after, including on week-ends and holidays. Even the classic TV-evening does not give the required escape, as tablet and smart phones became a regular “second screen” to switch the eyes between TV and computer.

Patrick Henz
29 months ago

First of all, I love how everyone runs with Disruption, even when it's spelled wrong in the Subject line. ;-)

Disruption is just that - it's game-changing! It's not just incrementally improving an existing process or product, it's a complete alteration that delivers efficiency & effectiveness previously unimaginable.

Michael Kotowski
28 months ago

Have some input?