Digital disruption must die

Businesses are stronger together, so why are the leaders trumpeting something that creates division? Disruption is dead. Long live transformation.


I have an opinion. Stop worrying about digital disruption and start doing something about business transformation.

Realised it last week, while listening to some digital marketing experts – always excellent for clarifying a message. And I would have realised it sooner, but this opinion lacked a dramatic entrance. I didn’t leap from the bath with an excited ‘eureka!’ (which, ungainly as I am, would have been followed anyway by a rapid upending and concussion protocols). Less lightning strike, more slow realisation that it was raining and had been for some time…

Disruption creates FUD; we’re enabling it

Ten years ago, I spent a few days in a handsome hotel near Lisbon with some clever IT security professionals. If you’re ever feeling like you need a paranoia top up, btw, these are your people. The conversation turned to winning budget. “Fear,” said one. “Throw a FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) grenade,” agreed another.

Digital disruption is an unnecessary label for necessary change.

A couple of years later and digital was winning friends. I worked for a social media marketing conference. Big brands would send their teams down to learn about hashtags, apps and influencers. I worked for an ecommerce conference. Big brands would send their teams down to learn about landing pages, personalised journeys and Amazon. I interviewed Werner Vogels about cloud computing, and Tony Hsieh about customer experience. The business world seemed full of opportunity.

And everyone in power agreed these things were all very important, but they would probably wait for some case studies from other, similar companies in their sector.

This frustrated those looking to win budget, so when the business pages became the sports pages and every night was fight night (Kodak v Instagram! Blockbuster v Netflix! Hotels v Airbnb! Everyone v Amazon!), they struck. Necessary change got an unnecessary label: digital disruption. Classic FUD.

We need everyone, now

The problem with fear, uncertainty and doubt is that not everyone reacts the same way. When we’re scared, we have (by and large) two responses: fight or flight. For sake of argument, let’s assume it’s a 50:50 split. I see no possible business benefit from allowing half of your people to run away from what must be done, but everywhere I look businesses are trumpeting ‘disruption’ – something that happens to you, something outside your control.

My two pennies: let’s change the conversation. Grab the opportunity of new business models, ideas and processes with as many hands as you can. Break up with disruption, it’s no good for you. Fall in love with transformation instead.