Elizabeth: Disruption

I recently came back from a conference on woman-owned businesses and entrepreneurs (as a speaker, not a business-owner).    There were lots of workshop sessions about marketing, networking, financing, etc., and one thing I heard over and over again was the concept of a “disruptor”.

How do you gain traction in the marketplace?  You need to be a disruptor.

How do you differentiate yourself from everyone else who does what you do?  You need to be a disruptor.

How do you move your business to the next level?  You guessed it, you need to disrupt the status quo.

I heard the concept again while watching coverage of the “March for Our Lives” marches against gun violence that took place on Saturday.  The newscasters said (in a positive way) that the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were “disrupting” the status quo thinking about guns in this country.  They drew parallels to recently deceased Linda Brown, the disruptor who was at the heart of the push to end segregation in American schools, as well as to all of those disruptors who participated in the Civil Rights marches.

Incremental action can move you forward, but sometimes it takes something disruptive to cause real change.

When it comes to books and reading there have been a number of disruptors.  The power driven printing press is one that comes to mind.  It allowed books, newspapers, and other printed materials to be reproduced more easily and more cheaply than the old medieval paper presses and increased access, resulting in an expansion of “the reading public.”

Electronic books and self-publishing have both “disrupted” the way books are created, distributed, and consumed.  Who could have imagined twenty years ago that it would be possible to carry around hundreds of books on a device the size of a paperback or that it would be possible to self-publish a bestselling book?

Not all disruptions are successful or lasting – what’s new today is old tomorrow – but where would we be without them?  Probably not typing this post on a laptop, watching a Netflix movie, or popping down to Starbucks for a latte.  Just guessing.

I’ve love to write a story with a character (or group of characters) pursuing a great new disruptive idea.  I’ll put that on the list for my next intense brainstorming session.

While I’m mulling over that, do you have a favorite disruptor from the past?  What do you think the next disruption heading our way might be?

5 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Disruption

  1. I believe that medicine will change drastically in the relatively near future, because I think that healthcare will become much more tailored to people’s individual genomes, allowing us to spend a lot less, but with more successful outcomes.

    • It is amazing how much medicine has changed even in my own lifetime. This seems like an area primed for “disruptors.”

  2. My family is enamored with Hamilton right now (even the kids!). We talk a lot about what happened when our country wasn’t yet a country, how a small group of individuals made change happen, and mostly about how YOUNG those individuals were (for the most part). When we listen to the lyrics of the musical, I explain to the kids the historical significance of what they hear (references to “32K troops in NY harbor,” “eating our horses,” etc.).

    For someone who writes historical novels, I think major moments like that are great settings for stories. There’s natural conflict that can act as the backdrop to your character’s conflict.

  3. Oh, boy, I think all the disruptors are coming our way. ALL of them. Right now, we seem to be heading back to old ideas that didn’t work super-great the first time around. Stuff like imposing international tariffs, bringing back coal (!), limited immigration quotas. Poisoning Russian spies is a remake, and all this school violence stuff is being repeated over and over and over again. The backlash to all of this could be very ferocious. As long as it’s not nuclear-powered backlash, well, we’ll probably get by somehow.

    I think we are in the middle of an intensely destructive period. If we get lucky, there will be leaders in all sorts of industries and diplomatic circles who will get the rubble cleared away, and build new and better things. I hope so.

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