Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

June 2018

It is now possible to major in disruption at leading universities. Course catalogs list famous disrupters like Edison, Ford, Bezos, Musk, Guttenberg, Luther, and Failing.

Failing? Yeah.

George E. Failing invented a portable well-drilling rig in 1930. Look it up. The point is that doing things differently is a key to business success. In the process of disruption, the new way rapidly replaces the old way, and the motto of the department, translated from the Latin, is “You Snooze, You Lose.”

As you watch the videos of Boston Dynamics robots running laps and doing back flips, you can’t help but wonder which industry is going to be disrupted the most. Uber is disrupting the taxi business, and driverless cars will replace Uber drivers. Pilotless helicopters will perhaps be easier to control (program) than driverless cars, and there’s lots more space up there than on roadways. In essence, when a company approaches market dominance, one of its squeezed competitors comes up with a product that changes the market.

Be all that as it may, there will still be appeal in the old ways.

Live theater, for instance, was not made obsolete by motion pictures, which were not eliminated by television. Opera, Greek tragedies, Shakespeare all continue. Milton Berle, perhaps, hurt movie box office receipts for a time, but Cinemascope wasn’t a technological response to television.

The only time people watch all the channels offered by their cable companies is when they can’t sleep. In fact, one form of disruption is cord-cutting, and not just the cable cord. Serious cord-cutters find a spot off the grid — plenty of spots on the east side of Camels Hump. Not-so-serious cord-cutters get by with enough electricity to recharge their phones and enough bars to catch a podcast and order a pizza.

A Harvard Business School professor was credited by The Economist magazine with creating the term “disruptive innovation.” You can take a six-week course from him for a grand this summer. There’s another opportunity to get into the disruption game with a crowd-sourcing application called InnoCentive.

Here’s my contribution. Remember the sign that was displayed in every IBM office? Here’s the new one: “DISPUPT.”

“THIMK” about it. Look it up.