Innovation and disruption: tools for social good, or get-rich-quick schemes?

We hear the term "disrupted" a lot. But what does it mean, and why does the fear of change it represents perfectly describe how President Trump won in 2016?

Michael Slaby: I think it's really easy—in sort of the world of marketing in general—to sort of fall victim to this “shiny object syndrome” of like innovation for the sake of innovation and disruption for the sake of disruption. 

I think both of those concepts are ultimately pretty bad for society. Innovation and disruption for the sake of innovation and disruption is like driving a wrecking ball blindfolded. Unless there's some real reason and mission and goal for turning an industry upside down, if our only goal is turning one dollar into two or ten I'm not sure that sufficient motivation to up end an economy. 

Sometimes innovation and disruption are necessary for progress, they're necessary for rethinking things and for getting out of stale habits that aren't working, but I think especially when it comes to technology relative to social good—and politics having a clear understanding of the communities that you're engaging and a clear mission—that you're talking about the role, that people are going to have in the mission that you're trying to drive is much more important than any particular technical innovation. Using new tools is a good idea. Reaching people in ways and reaching people where they are, reaching communities where they're comfortable and in their own language and listening on those platforms and in those networks where people are, these are all things that we should do.

But the goal here isn't to do something new, the goal is the same as it's always been, which is to build a relationship with a person that sees our vision for the future or an issue or the country the same way we do and to inspire in them a desire to participate in the future that we're trying to lay out and that we're trying to lead. 

I think this is where there's a real challenge in a world where attention is so divided, where we consume so much content from so many places, if we are too quick to skip to tactical conversations or in politics too quickly to skip the policy—“So I hear that you have anxiety about the future of your job. I have a 39-point plan”—when we're too quick to skip past the emotion of anxiety and the need for that person to feel comfortable and confident in that we understand the anxiety that they feel, we lose track of people really fast. 

And I think that's a place where President Trump was extremely successful in 2016. He spoke to a frustration and an anxiety about the pace of change that scares people, and it's disruptive to all of us. The pace of innovation is so fast that we are all living through more disruption and more change than we've ever had to before.

And speaking to that anxiety and that uncertainty is a really important part of leadership. Leading a community through change is about confidence and managing anxiety and managing change. 

And I think skipping to I think ultimately the promises that President Trump made during the campaign are ones that he can't deliver on. I think that ultimately he's a little bit like a seventh-grader running for a class president saying he's going to put Coca-Cola in the water fountains. But he's speaking to a feeling and an intensity and an emotion that is important, and not speaking at that altitude about values and belief is a real deficit for progressives I think.

"Disruption" sure is a word that tech bros like to bandy around a lot. Sure, there are companies like Uber and Facebook that really shook the world up, and those companies warrant the title of "disruptive." But at this breakneck rate of change that we're experiencing, is that good for the overwhelming majority of us who don't work for these tech companies? Are we experiencing a looming jobs crisis with AI, and will the jobs and money lost in the 2008 financial crisis ever really come back? Is this why, Slaby posits, Trump truly won the election—because people are scared of the rate of change?

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

Videos
  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less