In her recent New Yorker essay, author Jill Lapore confronts the latest business jargon that is all the rage: disruption, or the idea that small startups are ideal for felling larger corporations. Lapore carefully breaks down arguments presented by the disruption industry, which has made a small fortune selling products from its cottage industry of business self-help books. In a review of her article at Crooked Timber, disruption neither “explains what it’s meant to explain, nor predicts what it’s meant to predict. It’s a fable that comforts the comfortable, by depicting their rapacious waste as the inevitable manner of capitalism’s progress.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Lapore both defeats disruption advocates on their own terrain and outflanks them, arguing against the spread of disruption-based thought into areas where inefficiency benefits the public good. Lapore: “People aren’t disk drives. Public schools, colleges and universities, churches, museums, and many hospitals, all of which have been subjected to disruptive innovation, have revenues and expenses and infrastructures, but they aren’t industries in the same way that manufacturers of hard-disk drives or truck engines or drygoods are industries. Journalism isn’t an industry in that sense, either.”