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3 min read

Disruptive Disruptions: Do You Know What You’re Saying?


The words blurred together into an amorphous blob on my work calendar. In just one single month, I was scheduled to attend more than a dozen similarly titled conferences, all with some vague promise of helping me, my company, and my peers use emerging, disruptive, innovative, or transformative technology to our advantage.

It was overwhelming and, more importantly, confusing. What do these similar-sounding words really mean, and what are they trying to tell us? Did our company fall down the well, and our faithful dog, Disruption, is trying to save it? Are there even actual differences in these terms? Am I doomed to gaze out over my calendar each month, waiting for that meta moment when I’m presented with a conference titled “Disruptive Disruptions?”

While this may seem like a simple case of semantics or buzzwords, there is real value in cutting through the clutter and keeping these terms from being more than 10-cent words we can feel cool for using. First of all, there are differences, and keeping those differences straight and everyone on board with their real definitions is critical to ensuring everyone is on the same page with what we’re trying to accomplish with disruption, innovation, etc.

Defining Disruption Vs. Innovation

Let’s start with Disruption, a term near and dear to my heart (cough, subscribe to Disruption Magazine, cough, cough). In terms of technology, disruption is synonymous with making something obsolete. By disrupting current systems in your business, you are replacing or eliminating them entirely with some other form of technology.

Now, keep that definition in mind as you hear the conference titles Disruption for Marketing or Digital Disruption for your Business. Are we trying to make our companies or departments in our companies obsolete? That’s highly unlikely.

We have to be careful as business leaders because we could be taking something that has the potential power for real change across industries and watering it down to a catchphrase.

Innovation, while not as snappy and new sounding as disruption, is the process of making something better. It’s the difference between eliminating desktop computers in the workplace and upgrading them to sync with other devices.

What about Emerging and Transformative Technology?

Based on these definitions, transformation is more connected to innovation. Digital transformation, specifically, is your online presence and how it can be transformed or leveraged to aid your company’s reach. This includes your social media, SEO content, page ranking on Google, etc. Transforming, upgrading, or modifying any of these elements does not eliminate anything. It builds on what’s there or adds similar elements, i.e., adding optimized content to your site, creating an account on another social media platform, etc.

Emerging technology, on the other hand, is a technology that is seen as capable of disrupting our current landscape. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Robotics are technologies capable of dramatically changing the way we do things and eliminating many products, jobs, and devices we have now.

What are They Trying to Tell us?

While it’s certain that many of the professionals creating these conferences, webinars, e-books, and other materials toting the benefits of disruption and innovation are using the terms interchangeably, there are also many who have a solid grasp of their meanings.

So, the real question becomes are we informed enough to spot the difference between a technology that will eliminate vs. upgrade something in our companies? Can we choose the materials and conferences for our teams that will benefit us, or are we just chasing buzzwords because it’s what everyone else is doing? And, can we, please, go at least six months without coming up with another word that basically means ‘change’ and structuring a 10-part conference series on it? Transfomerging Disruptovations©, anyone?

Keeping these questions in mind is a very real part of what protects our companies from wasting time and other resources on materials that have no substance. Limiting the amount of these “disruptions” and “innovations” we spring on our workforce can also help to keep changes from feeling stale and lost in the blur of similar-sounding terms. In other words, we must keep ourselves from being the company that cries ‘disruption,’ so when real changes come along they’re met with focus and attention as opposed to an eye-roll about yet another conference.

At VC3, we strive to help each of our clients stay updated with the technologies that really matter. Through a mix of proven innovations and emerging disruptions, we keep our team and yours informed, tuned in, and speaking the same language.

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