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Digital Disruption Deviation

Digital Disruption: There is no doubt this is a current buzz-phrase. But there’s a problem. ‘Disruption’ isn’t disruption any more. At Vision Quest, we believe the term Digital Disruption is distorting our perception of its magnitude and impact.

The initial concept of digital disruption emerged almost 20 years ago and was introduced by Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen. His original theory related to ‘disruptive innovation’ and referred to the way new ideas and technologies could be deliberately employed to upset the status quo, redefine industry best practice and change the very rules of the game. Of course, emerging digital technologies 20 years ago, as primitive as they look to us today, were the keys to creating this rapid and disruptive innovation. Fast-forward to today and the meaning of the term ‘digital disruption’ has morphed significantly. Now it’s a buzz-phrase used to describe the impact new digital technologies are having across all industries and sectors.

There’s a problem though. While the phenomenon of digital disruption is real, the term itself is no longer a helpful way of labelling what is happening. At the heart of this issue is our understanding of what ‘disruption’ actually is. The way we conceptualize an issue has a huge impact on the way we react to that issue. The label we attach to it affects both our intellectual and our emotional responses to it. Those labels are either meaningful and helpful, or misleading and damaging.

So what exactly is wrong with ‘digital disruption’? Here are three reasons why labelling this phenomenon as digital disruption is potentially dangerous:

‘Disruption’ implies problems:

The changes brought by advances in digital technology and social media are perceived as troubles that need to be fixed or solved. This casts these changes in a negative light. If businesses and executives think of this new state of being as a damaging situation, rather than a positive opportunity to be grasped, they immediately get defensive. They batten down the hatches to weather the ‘storm’. Often, the thinking and action taken to tackle ‘problems’ is much less creative than that applied to ‘new initiatives’. Thinking is often based around restoring the status quo or ‘holding on, until the storm passes’. In a rapidly changing environment, these attitudes and actions are recipes for disaster.

‘Disruption’ implies this is a temporary state of affairs:

After the disruption things will return to the way they used to be. Put simply, they won’t. The world has changed fundamentally. There is no way to get back to the way things were. This is not a temporary disruption to service, the old models and methods of doing business have largely been superseded. Failing to recognize this could put you and your organization at a huge disadvantage.

‘Disruption’ implies this is a minor event:

The fact is, things don't get much more major than this. This is a paradigm shift, a new way of thinking and understanding. The game has changed and as we will see, this paradigm shift has emerged out of a massive power shift.

It is no longer a Disruption, it is a Deviation

It is time to forget thinking about new technologies as a ‘disruption’. Technologies today are Deviating from the normal business models into completely new and transformative ways of doing business. This evolving digital revolution is neither minor nor temporary. And rather than creating problems, it continues to create exciting opportunities and solutions across the board for all industries. Increasing efficiencies, improving access to customers, speeding up communication, improving organizational processes, opening up new markets, reinvigorating existing markets, and the list goes on.

Massive change is both disturbing and disorientating. So what should you focus on to chart your course for this now way of doing business? Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t be intimidated by the new technologies. Instead, carefully consider how this digital redistribution and resulting power shift impacts your organization. You can safely assume three things; people will continue to get greater access to information, connectivity (of everything with everything) will increase, and the speed of communication will accelerate.

  • Harness the power of digital to get you there. If you know what your core business is and you have a clear message, digital technologies are the ideal instruments to help you achieve your objectives. Refocus, clarify and then choose the right tool for the job. Embrace change and make sure you personally lead technological innovation. Not just by talking about the value of new technologies, but also by actually using the new technologies. It is not enough to talk about innovation, you must be seen leading by using.

  • Focus on what is important. Remember, your core business is still your core business. Know what your core business processes are and ensure your team and your customers know what it is too. Aim to deliver excellence and value so your clients, (and employees), have something positive to tweet about.

Don’t let the talk about digital disruption lead you and your organization astray. The key is to recognize it for what it is – a deviation from business-as-usual. It’s a fundamental redistribution of power that is changing the game. Refocus your mission, clarify your message and then confidently harness the power of this digital redistribution as it carries us into the future.

The following links provide in-depth information about Digital Disruption Deviation and how the world is changing.

  Digital Business Transformation: Disrupt To Win
The pace of digital disruption shows no signs of slowing as mobility, wearables, video, cloud, analytics, and other technologies continue to transform the ways we live, work, learn, and play.
Cisco Systems, Inc.  Cisco Systems, Inc.: Authors - Kathy O’Connell, Kevin Delaney, Robert Moriarty
  Digital disruption is so yesterday, the next disruption is here
Digital disruption is tangible. As a CIO you can quantify it and react to protect your organization but a new technology has arrived and entrepreneurs are creating open source organizations that no longer need humans to function.
Article by Matthew Griffin - Emerging Technology and Disruption Strategy Expert - Hosted by CIO Magazine
  How to scale your own digital disruption
Companies often spend millions of dollars on digital initiatives that fail to gain traction. Here’s how to move beyond experiments to implement changes that stick
Authors - David Edelman, principal, McKinsey Boston office; Nathan Marston, principal McKinsey London office
  Preparing for the digital disruption that’s coming to your industry
Whatever your business, significant disruption is either already occurring or on the way. Much of this is due to the latest wave of emerging and disruptive technologies that are serving as foundational building blocks for new, digitally based business models.
Article by Nicholas D. Evans Leader of Strategic Innovation Programs for Unisys and a Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders
  Digital Disruption
Embrace the future of work and your people will embrace it with you
Accenture : Authors - Deborah Brecher, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Celine Laurenceau, Paris, France - Colin Sloman, London, England