(P5): A Guide to Disruption

Hand drawn outline of levels in disruption. Iteration: Doing the same things better; Innovation: Doing New Things; Disruption: Doing new things that make the old things obsolete.
Stairway to Disruption

Disruption, as a way to change systems, requires real reflection and analysis of the target. A deep understanding of what is actually occurring is necessary before you can use disruption effectively.

Typically, we focus on what is wrong with the target system, how it doesn’t do what it claims to do. We tend to chuck the parts of the system that keep it going more or less as it is into a wastebasket of general evil. So, people with disabilities aren’t supported well and the reason is extreme profit as the primary outcome of the power of corporatist social, political, and financial elites. We use very abstract, and often contemptuous, models for why people who are obviously being hurt by this system still continue to support it.

A disruptive strategy does not try to change the entire system, and it accepts that people will continue to support the current system until an effective alternative is easily available. Disruption focuses on the part or parts of the system that the system values the least, and also the audience that values those parts. The system as a whole will continue to adjust itself to meet the claims of its most powerful components, even if it is degrading the complex system as a whole. It is the degraded parts, the ones that the system can’t value through its own dynamic, that represent the best opportunity for change through disruption.

When I say that disruption focuses on parts of the system, I really mean that it focuses on how the system currently works, and what processes it plays out in those “parts”.  Disruption aims to provide much higher process value and much more easily useful outcomes for those unvalued processes. Disruption chooses this strategy because it knows that the whole system:

  • Will be unwilling to invest resources (of all kinds) in these devalued processes.
  • Will pay an unacceptable political and social cost for diverting resources from highly valued processes in order to effectively compete for control over those devalued processes.

Often, the system believes that having these devalued processes addressed by some outsider is a good thing because it means they will be able to focus resources more effectively on the system’s highly valued outcomes.

This is the way disruption gets a fairly free arena for developing highly effective, cheap, and readily available processes that, for example, can replace the currently available, expensive, and bureaucratically defended system processes. By choosing a place where the incumbents in the larger system don’t want to compete, you allow yourself the luxury of focusing all your resources to build something better for your community.

Author: disabilitynorm

hubby2jill, 2dogs, advocate45+yrs, change strategist, trainer, geezer, pa2Loree, gndpa2Nevin

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