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Dangers of Disruption

Several years ago, when I heard the words, “We are going to disrupt the Hospitality Industry,” in a declaration made by the incoming CEO of the company where I then worked, I cringed a little and thought, “counterintuitive, much?!” Spoken in a tone that conjured up images of angry, torch-wielding mobs storming hotels everywhere, it felt more like a call to arms than a viable concept I could get behind.


As more and more organizations began to embrace what became known as disruptive marketing - -AARP was going to disrupt aging, a mattress company was going to disrupt the sleep industry (WTAF!)––I continued to bristle at the notion of disruption as a positive vehicle for change, and remember thinking, “Be careful what you wish for.” People love rallying around the latest catchphrase, often without grasping the implications.

"Ever since Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen first proposed his theory of disruptive innovation in 1995, the term has been widely co-opted and misappropriated by the business community,” writes Ilan Mochari his article for Inc. Inc. “The result is what often happens when words get misused by the masses: The word assumes the misused meaning. Aggravate used to mean "worsen." Now it also means "annoy."

Evidently, the Harvard Business Review agreed: In our experience, too many people who speak of “disruption” have not read a serious book or article on the subject. Too frequently, they use the term loosely to invoke the concept of innovation in support of whatever it is they wish to do.”

“Words have power,” states Jack Schafer Ph.D. in an article he wrote for Psychology Today “Words cannot change reality, but they can change how people perceive reality. Words create filters through which people view the world around them.”

So, is it merely coincidental that when disrupt and its buddies, disruptor and disruption began to bully their way into the zeitgeist, their defiant energy catalyzed a sequence of incredibly, dare I say, disruptive events; among them, the 2008 Financial crisis, the election of a “disruptor” president, a global pandemic, Putin invading Ukraine…? Just sayin'! In a world crying out for stability, peace, and positivity, please reconsider using words with negative definitions and connotations to manifest change.

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” ––Pearl Strachan Hurd


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