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Seeing Through the Hype of Disruption

January 11, 2014, 9:00 AM

Disruptive innovations often take a long time to come to fruition.  So for those of you who were around in 1999, 2000 and 2001, the world was coming to an end.  Everything was being disrupted and we weren’t going to buy our car, we were just going to buy the subscription to OnStar and everything else was going to be free.  

Here we are 13, 14 years later and that’s still not the case.  So I think there’s a lot of hype that goes into the disruptive innovations and then there’s a froth and foam that’s associated with that.  So how to people respond to that? Some people jump off the cliff and die.  Other people sit back and say, “Is this real?  How long is this gonna last?”  And other people embrace it and say, “Well, I’m gonna be one of the petri dishes and put some fruit flies in there that are gonna breed very, very rapidly and see if I can make something of this disruption and see if I can get in there.”  

Have there been disruptions?  Absolutely.  Mobility is an incredible disruption.  It’s changing the way we work, think, talk, communicate, engage, mobilize, socialize – it’s an unbelievable disruption.  But people predicted the mobility disruption, you know, 25 years ago and we finally have the infrastructure, we have the devices, and things are actually disrupting today.

So I think what’s important when you think about disruption is, as an investor, you have to see through the hype in whatever company you’re investing in and think about the leadership, the team that’s surrounding that leadership and how disruptive is it to today’s business model versus tomorrow’s business model.  I think what companies need to do, and it’s really important from a company perspective, is start to think about strategy not as this yearly fixed event but as this continuous dialog that you’re having inside the company about whether you are making the course corrections and adjustments to essentially not become a dinosaur.

And there are many companies that are riddled on the sidewalk and in the ditch because they didn’t actually have the conviction to take in the disruptive technology and do something different.  The classic example is photography, right.  Photography went from one point in time to today with Instagram and digital photography.  This has been coming for 20 years. This didn’t happen overnight.  And yet it still disrupted and crated a number of companies because it’s so hard to change over the course of time.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 



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