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Strategy and leadership for a disruptive world

Advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology have the potential to disrupt the rules of the game for every industry.

Challengers with big dreams, new tools and a "can do" attitude are creating new sources of value, changing the face of competition and disrupting the foundations on which our industries and institutions are built.

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Hey, ‘disrupt’ this! 5 tech terms to banish in 2013

This article was first published on 2 January 2013.

The author of this article names “disrupt” as the word he would most like to see banished due to excessive misuse in the tech and start-up worlds over the course of the past twelve months.

I agree wholeheartedly with any campaign to stop the misuse or lazy use of words in the business lexicon.  The word “strategy” is one word that has absolutely been neutered through poor usage.  

I think the author makes a fundamental error however in the context of the word “disrupt” when he suggests that it’s rise in use is largely a short-term phenomenon or a fad.

While many uses of “disrupt” are an overstretch or totally out of context, I expect we’ll see the incidence of genuine disruption increase rather decline in the years ahead.  As that happens the term will become more not less relevant.

Finally, the comments in response to this article include one arguing that “disruption” is just another word for change.  Disruption is not in my view the same as change – it’s more precise and it describes a type of change that is usually revolutionary rather than evolutionary (at least at the point of disruption) and accompanied by a level of turmoil not associated with more general change.

The distinction matters because it transforms the way organisations need to think about their operating environment, their risk profile, their management toolkit and, perhaps most importantly, their approach to identifying and pursuing opportunity.  Organisations that treat disruption as being the same as change and then manage with a conventional “change” mindset in an increasingly disruptive world do themselves and their stakeholders a serious disservice.

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