Disruption is ‘in’ and innovation is so 20th century

So claims Mary Harper -head of digital Standard Life in Marketing Week.

Talking ‘as if’ things are ‘in’ belies a fascination for the trendy and fashionable. There seems to be nothing more ‘hem line’ savvy in marketing management than the term disruption. 

The question is ‘so what’? Is disruption really new and how is it any different from innovation? 

As a piece of rhetoric it’s pretty powerful isn’t it. It evokes awareness of an edgy world where surprises happen and the need to unsettle things is essential. 

Disruption is positioned as a fearful problem that faces your business…but don’t worry your marketing people are on the case. 

Be quick on the draw. To avoid being disrupted we have to disrupt. 

I agree with Mary. Disruption is a slippery concept and it means different things to different people. One thing seems clear though and that is ‘disruption’ is an effect, an outcome that is the result of something else. That something else being innovativeness!

In that sense dirsuption is hardly new at all. It comes from imagination, avoiding complacency and critical thinking. Things that most informed business people know can make a difference. 

Disruption is therefore notice of a meaningful difference. As Gregory Bateson would say:

‘A difference that makes a difference’

So what might the unintended consequences be for unthinkingly buying into and adopting the fashionable disruption discourse? 

Less reflective marketers will simply latch onto the latest management fashion without a care for where the ideas come from or the real world consequences.

In that sense Disruption could go the same way as Salience which became a licence to shock regardless of the relevance or the ethics. 

Disruptiveness could become an arbitrary management metric along the lines of ‘I don’t think you or your ideas are disruptive enough’ – you’re fired. Even more dangerous could be throwing the baby out with bath water – disruption for disruption’s sake.

Mary introduces the idea of disruption altitude to sensitise marketers to the need to think about the type of disruption that is relevant to their business. A good idea I’d say. 

The fashionability of the idea of disruption stems from the effect of ‘I know about something that you don’t’. A glossy attempt at seeming erudite and able to see beyond the self-evident. Most cult leaders do the same.

So to illustrate just how fashionable disruption is here it is being used to explain The rise and fall of Apple phone. Does disruption actually a better explanation than not watching the competition and giving people a reason to buy your products? 

Is there such a thing as helpful disruption or do you just want to be a bull in china shop? Charging around being disruptive and smashing everything to bits in the process? 

Being wary of management fads and fashions you avoid making a fashion statement and potentially looking ridiculous in the process! 

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