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So, what is disruption

Updated: Oct 25, 2020

Disruption’s become a bit of a buzz word sadly – but as a result of exponential change and several tipping points being reached at once, we’re now facing disruption – stuff that fundamentally changes how/why we act in most areas of our lives – hence the buzzing of the word so to speak.  When I started my masters, disruption was one of the themes I identified as central to my career so far. In music, disruption happens constantly – some call it a mistake, others call it jamming or improvisation – whatever you call it, its results are either disaster or brilliant innovation.

This following definition of disruptive technology is from

“A disruptive technology is one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground-breaking product that creates a completely new industry.

Here are a few examples of disruptive technologies:

  1. The personal computer (PC) displaced the typewriter and forever changed the way we work and communicate.

  2. The Windows operating system’s combination of affordability and a user-friendly interface was instrumental in the rapid development of the personal computing industry in the 1990s. Personal computing disrupted the television industry, as well as a great number of other activities.

  3. Email transformed the way we communicating, largely displacing letter-writing and disrupting the postal and greeting card industries.

  4. Cell phones made it possible for people to call us anywhere and disrupted the telecom industry.

  5. The laptop computer and mobile computing made a mobile workforce possible and made it possible for people to connect to corporate networks and collaborate from anywhere. In many organizations, laptops replaced desktops.

  6. Smartphones largely replaced cell phones and PDAs and, because of the available apps, also disrupted: pocket cameras, MP3 players, calculators and GPS devices, among many other possibilities. For some mobile users, smartphones often replace laptops. Others prefer a tablet.

  7. Cloud computing has been a hugely disruptive technology in the business world, displacing many resources that would conventionally have been located in-house or provided as a traditionally hosted service.

  8. Social networking has had a major impact on the way we communicate and – especially for personal use – disrupting telephone, email, instant messaging and event planning”

Tech disruption is nothing new… you could head back to the 1400s and consider the invention of the printing press as disruptive technology – suddenly everyone had to become literate to stay current in the world – everyone worried about youth head down in their books rather than working in the fields. Or how about the industrial revolution?  Or even Henry Ford’s model T?  Disruption that has changed everything isn’t new, it’s just happening now faster than ever before and on more fronts.

It’s the power of disruption that interests me – just incredible how fast we can and will change and adapt when we have good reason to, or when we understand the benefits of doing so. That’s exciting when it comes to sustainability (I use the Natural Step conditions of a sustainable society  as a definition, to be clear). We can and will adapt to ways of doing things that support our ability to live as part of this environment, and will surely even regenerate our surroundings to better support ourselves as soon as we understand the benefits of doing so and find it easier, sexier and more convenient to do so. Maybe sustainability is really a design issue…?

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