Disruption: I Finally Get It!


Disruption, Transformation and especially Innovation: words that should elicit goosebumps reduced to nickel notions. As marketers and communicators, we spent the last few decades tossing these terms like confetti in order to glorify minimal, incremental upgrades and to flog feel-good platitudes.

I’ve spent as much time trying to convince clients and colleagues to reserve usage for examples that come not daily or yearly, but more often every decade or so, or maybe a few times a century.

But now, finally, I understand what real Disruption looks like and feels like. It looks like a worldwide pandemic. It feels like my life, career and future have been turned upside down, almost overnight. My every day has been Disrupted, my health and diet have been Disrupted. My family, neighborhood and world view have been – you guessed it – Disrupted. I bet the same is true for you.

We’ve survived this Disruption so far by leaning on the products of Innovation created in the past 40 years or so – technology and services, as well as medicine and other sciences that keep us relatively healthy and sane. I’ve never seen the pace of Innovation move as fast as it has in the last three months. Rather than a single game-changer though, this period of Innovation has been more about combining multiple, existing ingredients to create new models. A vaccine would certainly be a welcome Innovation.

Disruption and Innovation are fueling Transformation. The Transformation I hope this situation inspires is the discovery – and permanent, widespread adoption — of empathy for our fellow human beings. We are learning more about each other, “visiting” the homes of strangers and meeting their families as though close friends. We are recognizing and appreciating a kind of universal humanity and humility. We sense one another’s isolation and share in the anxiety (and hope) for what comes next. More than ever, we are grateful for what we have, and we all grieve for those who’ve lost so much so fast.

Lately, we’ve watched together as the streets fill with outrage at deprivation and injustice; some are taking to the protest lines for the first time in their lives. Now that is Transformative.

Yes, I am getting goosebumps as I witness the world Transform, enabled by Innovation to survive the greatest Disruption of my lifetime. I get it now: words can still have meaning.

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