Provocation on “The Disruption Machine. What the gospel of innovation gets wrong” by Jill Lepore

Jill Lapore is a history professor at Harvard University and probably that is why she places “Disruption Theory” in a historical and contemporary context.This article “The Disruption Machine. What the gospel of innovation gets wrong” was and still is quite controversial because “Disruption Theory” is very popular and widely adopted theory as a business model.”Disruption Theory” is based on the idea of disruptive innovation which is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances. (definition form wikipedia).

This is a very dense article.The author tries to explain “how established business can be blindsided by hungry startups producing inferior products at a function of the cost for what initially appears to be less profitable market.” She concludes that the disruption’s theory has not predictive power, she gives an example about the IPhone, because basically the theory is based on a weak research method and the theory is circular: “If an established company doesn’t disrupt, it will fail, and it if fails it must be because it didn’t disrupt
There are interesting points for discussion:
  1. The Term “disruption innovation” is frequently overused. And I guess her message is that we need to stop for a moment and think the way we are using these words. Can this term be applied to basically everything?
  2. The idea of connecting “disruption innovation” with fear. ” The upstarts who work at startups, . . are told that they should be reckless and ruthless. Their investors . . . tell them that the world is a terrifying place, moving at a devastating pace. . . . Disrupt or be disrupted.”  Are the disruptive innovators moved really out of fear?
  3. It seems Jill Lepore does not like “upstarts who work at startups”. Lepore is quite harsh on Josh Linker, venture capitalist. She thinks that disruptive innovators are dangerous and needs to be stopped. But isn’t that true that the creators of Google are disruptive innovators?
  4. New means “Innovation” and not “progress” anymore. Innovation before had a pejorative meaning. Cannot “Innovation” and “Progress” be mutually interchangeable ?
  5. “Disruptive Innovation” is based on not reliable evidence because it was based on the study of the disk-drive industry and the steel-industry. “In the longer term, victory in the disk-drive industry appears to have gone to the manufacturers that were good at incremental improvements, whether or not they were the first to market the disruptive new format. Companies that were quick to release a new product but not skilled at tinkering have tended to flame out.”
  6. There is a very good point about the past. We have the urge to look for innovative solutions. We are in a constant search and maybe we are leaving behind insights and lessons fro the past. Things that are really relevant. Even if we need to find new, innovative ways to teach we also need to keep with traditional forms of education. The same applies for journalist or health care. Do we really need to keep the traditional approaches? Can technology substitute the traditional approaches?

Thomson: “Time, Work-Disipline and Industrial Capitalism”

Thomson in this articles asks how technological improvement in time-keeping changed ordinary people’s experience of time. This reminds me of a novel I read in my early teenage years: Momo or also known as The Men in Gray written by Michael Ende (1973).

This is the story of Momo (from wikipedia)

“In the ruins of an amphitheatre just outside an unnamed Italian city lives Momo, a little girl of mysterious origin. She is remarkable in the neighborhood because she has the extraordinary ability to listen — really listen. By simply being with people and listening to them, she can help them find answers to their problems, make up with each other, and think of fun games. The expression “go and see Momo!” has become synonymous with panacea and Momo has become the friend of everyone, especially honest street- cleaner Beppo and poetic tour guide Guido (also known as “Gigi”).

| | | Next → |