Additionally, the metaphor carries another useful point: As water goes through state changes, the underlying molecule (H2O) never changes – it merely transforms from one energetic state to another. The same can be said about nearly all disruptions in the business world – the underlying “job to be done” (to reference the excellent work of the late Clayton Christensen) doesn’t change. We still watch movies (more so than ever); they just don’t come on a VHS videotape we picked up in a store anymore, but are streamed straight to our TV sets. We take more photos than ever before; they just happen to be digital and on our phones instead of paper being chemically processed from film. And, in the case of Uber, we still hop into a car to go from A to B; this car just typically isn’t yellow anymore–nor does it come with a ticking meter and a grumpy driver behind the wheel.
The implications of this are far reaching and point toward what we believe is actually the biggest enemy of every incumbent organization. To borrow the words of Walt Kelly’s comic character Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
There’s much to unpack in this statement. But most importantly, it suggests something essential about understanding your vulnerability to disruption: Start with a hard look at yourself and your organization.
Companies rarely get disrupted by forces outside of their control, nor do most companies get disrupted by truly new and novel products and services. Contrary to modern day folklore, what becomes disruptive is often merely innovation – a state change in the way a product or service is being created and/or delivered. And yet most incumbents struggle as their internal processes, procedures and culture get in their way.
So next time the word disruption gives you chills, let it be both a warning and an opportunity to look inside your organization – and get to work.
Pascal and the be radical team
P.S. Interested in learning how to “disrupt disruption”? Join us for our two week live online course FutureFWD!
The be radical Briefing is a bi-weekly email digest that gives you brief and personal explanations of the future of business — covering ‘radical’ news, research, lessons, people, and ideas. If you want an easy-to-read take on new technologies, and how they affect business models, methods, culture, and leadership sign up today!
Check out the archive for past editions of the Briefing.