What does it mean when something is “disruptive”?
In normal circles, this term means something quite negative. However, in the technology world, “disruption” is a surge of progress that affects the playing field of other technologies.
Simply put, a “disruptive” technology is an invention that influences an established technology, sometimes replacing that established technology altogether or creating an entirely new industry based on these ground-breaking products.
Innovations such as email, laptops, and smartphones are prime examples of “disruptive” technologies. When each of these were incorporated into mainstream society, all of them changed how we communicate, work, or spend our leisure time.
Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, introduced this term in his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. He splits technology trends into two categories: disruptive and sustaining. A sustained technology’s span improves in increments only, adding onto what’s already been established. While a “disruptive” technology is often new, somewhat buggy, and can appeal to a limited audience.
This may not be the case any longer, since inventions have reached exponential growth, working out the flaws in a product takes less time than it did in the 20th century.
Christensen says that “disruption” can be a negative force on established technologies, forcing their redundancy quickly, leaving companies flailing to survive and keep up.
An opposite point of view stems from a piece penned by Mark W. Johnson in the Washington Journal, where he asserts that “disruptive” technology isn’t meant to do outdo what’s currently available, but actually “transforms a complicated, expensive product into that is easier to use or is more affordable than the one most readily available.”
Whether “disruption” is good or bad, it does appear to be here to stay.
For the talent retention field, these inventions opened a window to a job market that didn’t exist even 20 years ago. Fresh and exciting tools are cropping up continually in an industry that relied on outmoded ways of hiring for too long. From apps that assist recruiters to startups crafting innovate ways to manage and hire staff, “disruption” is casting a wide net globally.
So next time you hear of something being “disruptive,” pay attention, because it could change how you live and how you relate to other people in the future.