Become a Disruptor
Become a Disruptor
What it takes to become a disruptor. Issue #2 Dec. 26, 2016
What is a disruptive technology as opposed to any other technology or any other series of change events?
Let’s use the distinction exponential to help us sort this question out in a useful manner. Exponential is most commonly used to refer to non-linear progressions of change. Disruption of a business or a marketplace is usually considered to be a result of exponential change rather than mere linear progressions that are largely predictable.
A well-known physicist once said, “If you say you understand quantum physics then I’m sure you don’t. I am one of the developers of this way thinking and I can’t say I understand it.” To grapple with what is necessary to become a disruptor, you need to have the humility to share this point of view. That can be best expressed in the term of William Warren Bartley III “unfathomable knowledge”. That is to say, we have some clue but know that we don’t fully know what we are dealing with.
We each, personally, have the same relationship to all non-linear events and non-linear processes. Why? Because we’ve grown up in an era where everyone is a scientist in the linear, cause and effect tradition. And this goes back through a very long period of evolution.
Our world has been linear, our thinking has been linear, and our language is linear. We learned this basic thinking long before we got to think about thinking in school or later life. People who don’t generally think in a linear manner are considered strange.
We do, however, have many non-linear experiences in life, in language and in our thinking. It just isn’t generally explicit and we don’t like it to be confronted. Why Not? Because we can’t answer in sensible, linear language.
We have sayings like “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”. That’s a saying of non-linearity. We say, “it just emerged” when we can’t explain how it happened or where exactly it came from in linear terms. We talk about a team, a union, or any social organization as if it was a being, an entity in its own right. But we don’t want to be pressed too far on that – especially for large organizations.
In this light, all change can be said to be disruptive. It’s just a matter of degree. However, the use of the term disruptive, as currently becoming popular, is not just a matter of degree. It is also a matter of kind: Of a different way of thinking about things. It is not the size of the change so much as the nature of the change. It’s used for change that is non-linear. Non-linear cannot be understood, or worked with, by linear means.
In my next newsletter (or two), we’ll explore the relationship of disruptive technology and exponential change to complex adaptive systems. We’ll go there because that is what an organization is. And it requires new ways of thinking and a new language to be able to influence our enterprise. The difficulty lies in the nature of an enterprise. Each is a complex adaptive entity. Hence, not amenable to linear, hierarchical, cause and effect thinking.
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