Disruption, or distraction?

It is amazing to look back and see the way in which the meaning of words has changed over the years.

Remember when ‘grass’ was something we mowed every Saturday morning? Now the expression is equally at home describing an illicit-mind altering substance that is smoked.

And of course ‘viral’ used to describe some sinister illness or disease – but today to ‘go viral’ means that your latest post on Facebook has gone crazy. The internet is full of references to words that have changed their meanings over recent times.

When I was young and my parents suggested I was being ‘disruptive’ – that was generally a bad thing.

However, today, being disruptive usually means turning a business on its head and doing something radically different in order to achieve a better outcome. It often involves taking a quantum leap. Just look at what Uber has done to the taxi industry. From the consumer’s perspective – disruption is often a good thing.

However, some players in the business environment will see disruption as anti-establishment behaviour that simply does not respect ‘the way we do things around here’.

Disruption is fuelled by creative and imaginative thought. It is the ‘cutting edge’ element of innovation.

For businesses that don’t embrace disruption, or at least keep abreast with what is happening in their industry, they seriously risk being left behind and becoming yet another dinosaur.

Do you remember Encyclopaedia Britannica? First published in 1768, this iconic source of information was last published in printed form in 2010. The final (15th edition) comprised of 32,640 pages of information compressed into 32 volumes. Of course, for many Encyclopaedia Britannica was revered as it took pride of place in its own custom bookcase. The Encyclopaedia was often of a status symbol, or piece of luxury furniture, rather than a regularly used research tool.

Today Encyclopaedia Britannica still exists in electronic form. However – online resources like Wikipedia have well and truly replaced it as a source of inital research.

Today if mum or dad told their 12-year-old they were being ‘disruptive’ – they may well be congratulating them for their innovative spirit!

However, disruption can work against us. Instead of making life simpler and more dynamic, it can serve as a distraction, depriving us of the many benefits that disruption can bring.
Consider the following scenario: The local branch of one of the ‘big four’ banks has brought disruption to our sleepy local community. The builders moved in and solid walls were erected where the staff could work unhindered and out of sight. A number of new ATMs were installed inside the banking chamber and a roving ‘concierge’ was employed to handle any enquiries from customers who might actually need to interact with a living and breathing human.

Our bank is a product of a new era. Gone are the teller cages and the manager’s office – only to be replaced by a wall of machines. I am not actually sure what goes on behind the ‘wall’. And I wonder how I would be greeted if I walked in and asked for a $500,000 home loan. Would someone mysteriously appear from behind the ‘wall’ and bustle me off to a yet-to-be-discovered interview room to sign me up?

Personally, I like disruption, and I like the fact I no longer have to stand in a line at the bank waiting to see a teller to make a withdrawal or a deposit. But then I have been fortunate. I have grown up in a world that has seen me exposed to technology. I have been forced to adapt. And I’m okay because of it.

But in saying that, there are many in our community that have not had the opportunities that I have had and for them embracing disruptive technology presents some very serious challenges.

Spare a moment to be a little nostalgic about the past – to remember the way things used to be – and be mindful of the needs of others and the fact we might just have to lend a hand from time to time.

Help Grandma summon an Uber on her smart phone when she needs to go and do a spot of shopping – it won’t take long!


Share this:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.