Monthly Archives: May 2016

Crain’s: Repackaged old ideas aren’t disruptive tech

Apropos our latest entry, here is another author who refuses to bestow the disruptive label on Uber:

The actual tech innovations that these companies claim aren’t so disruptive or impossible to imitate that their “legacy” competitors couldn’t use them. In fact, they do.

Mr. Bershidsky is right that Uber is not disruptive in the Harvard Business Review sense. However, I will grant that many industry watchers find Uber the company’s success unexpected, which is a different kind of disruption to their livelihoods.

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160513/OPINION/160519895/repackaged-old-ideas-arent-disruptive-tech

A disruptive innovation

Disruptive

DISRUPTIVE: “A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leaders and alliances.” — Wikipedia entry for disruptive innovation

Hype. It’s what keeps me and other marketing folks in bread. But lest you heap all the blame for hype on your marketing department and ad agencies, consider this: the most prolific generator of hype is often the face in the mirror. You claim everything — your business process, your product, you yourself — is unique, bleeding edge, a sea change in the industry. I have attended meetings where executives demand plans to copy a successful competitor, then crow about how they’re going to disrupt the business firmament.

I suppose if you’re an early adopter of some disruptive innovation, you could lay claim to being a disruptor. The trouble is, everyone claims to be a disruptor. And Harvard Business Review has a problem with that:

In our experience, too many people who speak of “disruption” have not read a serious book or article on the subject. Too frequently, they use the term loosely to invoke the concept of innovation in support of whatever it is they wish to do. Many researchers, writers, and consultants use “disruptive innovation” to describe any situation in which an industry is shaken up and previously successful incumbents stumble. But that’s much too broad a usage.

Okay, this is a word site, not a business blog, so I’ll let you read up on what truly makes a disruptive model here, here, and here. The purpose of Lexicide is to showcase misuses of the word, such as this one:

Customer disdain for this ‘innovative and disruptive’ business model is only growing

Notice how carefully the quote avoids calling the subscription lingerie service a disruptive innovation. However, I’m sure Adore Me’s stakeholders were peeing in their panties with delight at the disruptive appellation. Ha. Anyone who lived through the Columbia House Record Club years knows how old the pay-each-month-because-you-forgot-to-cancel model is. Disruptive, my ass.

And anyhow, as the linked articles lay out, disruptive is not just plain old innovation. Like stakeholder and long tail, it has a specific, narrowly-defined business definition. Not that that will stop anyone from misusing the word.

Maybe it’s time we really disrupted the works. We could translate all our Powerpoint slides into Urdu. We could circulate all memos on cuneiform tablets. Or we could just correct our colleagues when they misuse words. Now that’s disruption I can support.

Otto E. Mezzo

References:
https://hbr.org/2015/12/what-is-disruptive-innovation
http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/01/economist-explains-15
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/customer-disdain-innovative-disruptive-business-000200667.html