Is Disruption So Common We Don’t See It Any More?

By Todd Wilms, Head of Social Business Strategy at SAP

Editor’s Note: Todd Wilms is the moderator for our upcoming PARC Forum “Time to Change – Culture and Brand Disruption Leading to Innovation” on Thursday, January 16, 5:00 – 6:30 p.m. at PARC.  With panelists Susan Etlinger (Altimeter Group), Bryan Kramer (PureMatter), and Michela Stribling (IBM), we will explore how to shift internal culture into a competitive advantage. Register today and join us!

Future technology touchscreen interface.A few years ago, the term disruption was itself disruptive. Analysts used this term to showcase the big macro changes in the marketplace. Organizations started using this term to showcase how their products would cause changes in that marketplace. But, in 2014, has disruption become so commonplace that we no longer see it – that nothing is really disruptive anymore because everything is disruptive?

The pace and “quality” of disruption means that organizations will now have to try harder to stand apart in the sea of innovation. The car doesn’t have to fly, necessarily, for it to be disruptive, but saying it has Bluetooth and comes in new canary yellow won’t do it anymore.  Just as the consumer’s expectations have changed, so should your organization’s innovative standards change.

Social Media Hinders Innovation

We now see everything about everybody. Not just the mindless updates of the Kardashian-of-the-moment-faux-celebrity, but of every new gadget, gizmo, and product ever created. We see brands hankering for the attention of the consumer across all of these channels. They do it under the guise of “thought leadership” or more overt, with directed ads. The consumer sees it all and is so overwhelmed we can no longer digest all of this innovation. Harvard Business Review’s data shows that there was a 40,000X increase in websites over the first 15 years of the Internet. Twitter averages over 5M tweets per day. The onslaught of data trend line continues, with little indication of tapering off.

parc-innovation-lab-ad-JANCompany Culture Needs To Be On-Board

To be truly disruptive then means that organizations can’t just whitewash innovation with aggressive marketing or lofty promises. Just saying you are innovative no longer holds sway for the public. But where does this innovation really come from.

Occasionally, companies will literally stumble upon something that changes everything (i.e., Post-It Notes were developed accidentally and coined “a solution without a problem”) or they evolve it so swiftly and dramatically it takes on a whole new life (i.e., Apple did not create the personal, portable music device, but the iPod re-imagined it). These are the rarities. Most organizations need to fully, culturally bet on innovation. This means being disruptive themselves.

Zappos took a bold step this week to remove bosses from their organization. Time will prove whether this is pure folly or stroke of genius (or maybe a bit of both), but it does represent the commitment that organizations must make to set themselves apart. Half-measures no longer even yield minor results; half-measures and $2.52 will get you a small latte at Starbucks.

Social Media Accelerates Innovation

The social media sword cuts both ways. What makes disruption and innovation so difficult also helps to promote it. The cultural zeitgeist is powered by social media and innovation is no exception. Anything that fundamentally makes our lives better, richer, easier, etc. has the opportunity to break through all that noise and really promote disruption. Once that happens it has a life of its own.

What makes disruption so complex is that entrepreneurs often cultivate what they know, not what the market needs. Now, there is no guarantee that if you create something the market needs, that social media will magically accelerate your success.  But it is guaranteed that social media won’t help you much if you aren’t problem solving.

This article was originally published on and can be viewed here.

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