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Posts Tagged ‘disruption

“Disruptive movement must come from within”*…

Disruption can be the engine of deep and rapid change to industries, political systems, or indeed societies. As COVID reminds us, some of those disruptions are involunatry. But many aren’t. Indeed, on the back of champions like Clayton Christensen and his promotion of “disruptive innovation,” disruption has become a go-to strategy– if not the go-to strategy– for entrepreneurs (and some intrapreneurs) around the world. And it has begun to define the strategies of social and political actors/movements as well.

Disruption can be a powerful approach to solving problems that have been allowed to fester (e.g., in-grown, oligarchical markets; climate change.) But Santiago Zabala warns us that as disruption has become more dominant, it risks losing any purpose beyond simply “winning” the game (the market, the election) in question…

… “disruption,” according to its Latin origin, signifies “rupture,” tearing apart, and violently dissolving continuity. As a metonym for progress, since the nineties it has spread the illusion that innovation is always an improvement regardless of its social consequences. Its association with Silicon Valley and business culture in general has led us to disregard the reckless adverse effects of progress without responsibility. In fact, this indifference is vital to understanding the meaning of disruption and our fascination with a notion that is constantly deployed to exploit our hope that innovation will save us. “Disruption,” as Bernard Stiegler noted, “radicalizes the reversal of all values,” whether technological, political, or religious.

Like other concepts whose meanings are eroded by overuse, such as nihilism, postmodernism, and populism, disruption requires a philosophical elucidation. In recent decades, technological disruptions were heralded as collective life-shaping events, but is necessary to question this disruption is seen as a value worth pursuing even though its worship is tearing apart the possibilities for a sustainable future…

Disruptive innovation, as [historian Jill] Lepore illustrates, holds out the hope of salvation from the very damnation it encourages because the idea of progress has been stripped of the aspirations of the Enlightenment. The West in the eighteenth century embraced the idea of progress; in the nineteenth, evolution; and in the twentieth, growth and innovation. And the problem today is that the idea of disruption dominates the rhetoric of not only Silicon Valley but also other industries and contemporary societies all over the world. Disruption has taken over as a common language in which to project not just success but also a future of unforeclosed possibilities. This success is premised on technology’s capacity to continuously offer cheaper alternatives to established products—and on the promise that innovation is always an improvement, regardless of its consequences.

Disruptive innovation in journalism, education, and medicine has emerged as an all-purpose replacement of traditional methods with new ways that value novelty and speed. This valuation of progress without quality has allowed these pillars of democratic nations to be further subverted by capital, prey to market drives that ignore the value of the product for the value to shareholders. The belief that companies and industries that failed were somehow destined to fail is at the heart not only of Christensen’s concept of disruptive innovation but also of a neoliberal age that holds that government should play no role in restraining corporate behavior. Giving corporate behavior a free pass has facilitated the application of disruption’s indifference to arenas that affect society, politics, and culture. Numerous conferences, centers, summits, and labs established even in just the most recent decade demonstrate that “disruptive” has become an admiring adjective, a positive valence, even a brand.

In order to resist disruption it is not enough to demonstrate that its benefits are based on shaky evidence. This has been the approach taken by Lepore (“Christensen’s sources are often dubious and his logic questionable”), Michael Porter (“disruptive technologies that are successful in displacing established leaders are extremely rare”) and Andrew A. King and Baljir Baatartogtokh (“only seven of the 77 business case studies covered by Christensen’s fit his own criteria of what constitutes disruptive innovation”), among other scholars. While these analyses are useful to debunk the illusion that innovation is always an improvement, they do not modify the widespread enthusiasm for it. “Exaggerated claims for disruption,” as Mark C. Taylor points out, “usually result from a failure of memory, which is symptomatic of a preoccupation with the present in a culture addicted to speed.”

This addiction can be overcome by thinking through longer stretches of time…

… and the social and cultural hopes and values that should guide us. Disruption can be a force for altogether positive and overdue kinds of change… but only if its aims are higher than simply the bottom line.

A critical look at what we talk about when we talk about “disruption”: “Disruption: Neither Innovative nor Valuable,” in @LAReviewofBooks.

See also: “‘Disruption’ Is a Two-Way Street.”

* Leo Tolstoy

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As we contemplate change, we might recall that it was on this date in 1920 that a disruptive force was named and energized: Adolf Hitler delivered “the Hofbrauhaus speech,” in which he gave a crowd of nearly 2,000 members of the German Workers’ Party a twenty-five point platform and a new name– the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party,” or Nazi, Party.

Hitler was, at the time, the head of publicity and propaganda; the next year, he became the Party’s head. The event was sufficiently momentous that the Nazi Party celebrated it founding at the Hofbrauhaus each year thereafter.

Hitler in the early 1920s

source

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