The Dangerous Dichotomy of Disruption

The Dangerous Dichotomy of Disruption

I recently posed a question on LinkedIn asking my connections to list what they considered the genuine disruptions of the past decade.

In a week filled with the frothy tsunami of CES updates and trend reports AND the 10-year anniversary of the release of the iPhone, I received a spirited number of responses.

Some were obvious — the iPhone, NetFlix, UBER, Tesla.

Some not-so obvious — Donald Trump and the 2016 Election “hacks”

As a Strategist, some common threads particularly struck me:

More examples were business model changes — UBER, airbnb, NetFlix, Amazon AWS, Free WiFi — than actual products. Clay Christensen would be proud.

Many were organizations that weren’t on our collective radar five years ago. A profound indication of the speed of transformation we’re facing.

In many ways I share the exuberance of a world where archaic systems are re-evaluated and transformed — have you tried securing a mortgage recently? — and where imagination, chutzpah and a liberal sprinkling of “hell yeah let’s do this” triumphs.

But as business journalists and the folks on Sand Hill Road work hard to create a disruption idolatry, are there not some dichotomies to consider too?

Change is hard, messy and often unfair in who gets promoted and who gets punished.

Kudos to Amazon for perpetually pushing the envelope in terms of retail concepts and I adore the smarts behind the Amazon GO store. But what about the classic blue collar retail jobs lost? For many teenagers, immigrants and seniors a retail job (or flipping burgers at McDonalds) was their first rung on the ladder to earning a living wage, genuine responsibility and boosting their self-confidence. Automated everything obliterates those opportunities.


At a macro level, as long term and sustained job security becomes more fantasy than fact, what impact on the mental well-being of our citizens? The stress of perpetually being “on the job hunt” is a relatively new phenomenon but in the “gig” economy it will become a reality for many.

Canada’s CBC penned a delightful article commending the ingenuity of several local entrepreneurs who are “uberizing” (yes that is a real phrase) their sectors. But the article carried a darker message too. One that could be rightly filed under “The Law Of Unintended Consequences”

“There is uncertainty about who will the cover the cost of health care, employment insurance, Old Age Security and other social services since many of these programs are traditionally paid for by employers and employees.”

In similar fashion, though with a more liberal dose of British humour, The Guardian newspaper asked if democracy can survive in a world where information, misinformation and blatant disin