(P5): Disruptive Innovation

Large ADAPT protest at the National Capitol with many participants with disabilities

Disruptive Innovation is a framework for replacing an existing part of a complex adaptive system with one that is:

  • Much less expensive or resource demanding
  • Easier to access and use
  • Easier to support, repair, and replace
  • Flexible in opening up adjacent possibilities for change

Imagine an MRI machine that only cost $50,000, instead of millions, and that could do a scan for $10.

Such disruption is not limited to products or technologies. It is a very useful concept for reimagining community living, social support, collaboration, mutual support, and other social “technologies” that are important to our disability community.

But disruptive innovation is not easy to do. You will need an understanding of where disruptive innovation starts and how it evolves.  Evolution is the right framework for thinking about successful disruption.

As an example of both the possibilities and difficulties of disruption, imagine the ways that real trust between people makes everything they do more effective and less expensive in both time and resources. Then imagine how easy it is to lose trust in our current context. What kind of context would support trust and make its continuation and expansion more resilient?

(P5): Mutual Support

Stylized diagram of people of different colors in huddle as metaphor of collaboration.
Huddle for Support

Mutual Support is the way we operationalize the values of personalism. It is the way we get the values of personalism to emerge in our communities. As opportunities arise, we support one another. We also organize ongoing mutual support around longer-term supports for specific targets (say various kinds of recovery support, food support, caregiving support). We organize local projects to build an alternate infrastructure and experiment with ways of building local alternatives to the dominant system structure.

Most of all, we use mutual support to get better at, and more comfortable with,  rapid change, and rapid response to change.

Mutual support isn’t about building permanent alternatives to replace the dominant system infrastructure. It is about getting better at short term support creation, and being more circumspect about committing resources to permanent solutions. The reason for this approach is because the dominant system will always be changing as it gradually and/or suddenly degrades.

Mutual Support builds values, and organizations that emerge from such support must be viewed as temporary. If we try to make them permanent, we will build in the flaws of the current infrastructure at the same time. Any time you integrate your new vision of support into the dominant CAS, the system imposes its logic and values on your novelty. Your change becomes part of, and subject to, the aging of the CAS.

(P5): Personalism

A woodcut of The Dorothy Day House of Hospitality complete with ramp.
Notice the Ramp in the Woodcut

As a value system, Personalism has arisen repeatedly over the millennia (probably the last 6,000 years at any rate) because large scale social organizations like states, and now corporations, eventually impose personal belittlement as an expected standard of behavior in social systems. Belittlement here is a general term for both social level stereotyping and devaluing and personal interactions that stereotype and devalue (like bullying).

Personalism, whether religiously based or not, focuses on the enlargement of life and its possibilities for each individual, and the social network of which they are a part. It is an excellent guide to what we might do right now for ourselves and those in our immediate vicinity.

You can see personalist values in the practices of disability accommodation, inclusion, and support methods like person-centered planning. But the values of personalism can and should affect every social interaction.

Personalism is viewed by the larger world as impossible, mostly because it can’t be created by laws, effectively funded by a government, or function as a profit center. Belittlement also can’t be eliminated by fiat, by punishment, or by shaming(?). The values of personalism can only emerge from a community that practices personalist social interaction.

Personalism is often embraced by people after an epiphany in which they see its value in their own and others lives. While such an epiphany can alter personal social behavior for a lifetime, this change doesn’t automatically translate into a common reduction or elimination of belittlement in larger social systems. These larger systems have power dynamics which reproduce belittlement at high frequency all the time.

Put bluntly, the values of large scale social systems and many local social systems are psychopathic and view humaneness only as an unfortunate necessity of power to prevent revolt and nothing more. But in our response to the degradation of human support the disability community is now facing, regardless of how we expand our resistance, the creation of a community that supports the enlargement of life and personal possibility has to be at the core of our counterstroke.

I think we should view personalism as our common experimental framework for building the basis of our future. It provides us with a framework of values for judging the long term usefulness of our various efforts to build community.

(P4): Preparing the Counterstroke

A picture of the Trinity Atomic Explosion, very early after initiation of the explosion when it was still a complex bubble.

Success in preparing a counterstroke requires a great deal:

  • Giving up the notion that you can restore what was.
  • The carving out of some space that is hidden to create the counterstroke. Why it is “hidden” doesn’t matter. It can be (and often is) that the insurgent simply doesn’t believe that you are capable of preparing a counterstroke.
  • Creating a genuinely new and disruptive complex system for your counterstroke. As an ongoing real-world example, women are on the ascendance everywhere in the world, regardless of political disagreements across communities of women, because they are coherently creating something new together. Men, on the other hand, are on the decline, because they are trying to defend what they have. All else being equal, creating something new will outlast and eventually replace the current reality, no matter how much effort, even successful effort, is put into the defense.
  • Never allowing fear to trigger a premature counterstroke.
  • Waiting for the maximum feasible disintegration of the insurgent before launching the counterstroke.

Note how foundational patience is in the success of all this.

(P4): Phases in a Strategic Defense

A diagram of phase states and changes. For illustrative purposes only.

  • You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.
    Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.
    Frédéric Bastiat
  • The best defense against sarcasm is to take it literally.
    Vijay Fafat

Because the Strategic Defense is only “chosen” with partial knowledge of its implications, the choice can always be thought of as involving great uncertainty. It is usually only “chosen” because there is no real choice.

There are three phases in a successful Strategic Defense:

1. Blunting the surprise, the invasion, overwhelming force, or whatever constitutes the initial assault.

2. Preparing the counterstroke.

3. Delivering the counterstroke.