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Disrupt or die

Why you should sometimes embrace, rather than fear, disruption in your business.

A very wise man once said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Shout out to Einstein right there. But before we go any further, let’s start at the beginning, with hunter-gatherers.

Compare our ancient ancestors to the more familiar scene of a tractor ploughing a field – modern agriculture. What’s the connection?

Similarly, take a look at sailboats and steam ships, trains and cars, CDs and mp3 downloads, PCs and smartphones, and chemical photography and today’s popular digital versions. Where’s the pattern? How are they linked?

It’s not difficult to see that one represents the past (the way things were done) while the other shows us the present, or maybe even a hints at the future (the way things are or will be done). However, a comparison of the two shows more than that, if you dig a little deeper.


The D word

Each change demonstrates disruption. The very word might strike fear to the heart of businesses. After all, it’s defined as a disturbance or problem that interrupts an event, activity or process. As a rule, interruptions are not good for business, or employee engagement for that matter.

But let’s take a moment to explore the word a little more closely. Forget the synonyms – they’ll only make you more worried. Time to change the angle. Time to look at ‘disruptive’, and here is our breakthrough, because this is defined as an innovative or groundbreaking action.

Now we’re talking. Everyone loves innovation. Companies love innovation. We all know that it’s vital to the success of a business these days. Adapt or die, right? It’s not a new theory, but what about disruptive innovation? That’s something that improves your product or service in an unexpected way, often superseding or destroying what came before it.


Get the picture

And now we’re back in worrying territory again, but before you consign the idea to the scrapheap, think back. Way back to 1948 and Edwin Land’s invention: the Polaroid camera.

Intended to revolutionise photography with instant images, it quickly became an iconic product with a cult following. They collaborated with giant brands like Mattel and the Spice Girls. They were invincible. They even invested in digital technology, but ultimately they feared cannibalisation. After all, once you launch a digital camera, who needs a Polaroid? And they were right.

In 2008, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy. For the second time. If they’d trusted their instincts and had the courage to disrupt their own business, who knows where they’d be today…?

It turns out that having a great product that was innovative once upon a time isn’t enough anymore – and it’s not even necessarily enough to make your great product better. Sometimes, you need a new one.

It’s time to think differently. So that’s full marks to Einstein then.



Chat to us about how to drive employee engagement around disruptive changes in your organisation.