CXO

The 10 most dangerous myths about digital disruption

Disruption is a popular tech and business buzzword. Here's how to separate fact from fiction around emerging tech that will actually change business and industry.

Digital disruption is the single largest change facing enterprises and technology providers, David Smith, vice president at Gartner, said during a session at the 2018 Gartner Symposium/IT Expo in Orlando. And any time a new technology comes to market and gains hype and attention, myths arise along with it, which can be dangerous for your business, he said.

Digital disruption refers to a fundamental shift in the way things are, Smith said. The term, however, is often overused. A strong example of an actual disruption is Uber: Not only did it change the taxi industry, it also changed the way that people operate, and the fact that most people now ignore the common assumption that you shouldn't get into cars with strangers, Smith said. "Now it's just part of life," he added.

Disruptions are everywhere, but myths around disruption can impede innovation by playing upon our fears or giving us false hopes, Smith said. However, it's important not to completely dismiss them, but instead to investigate why they exist at all.

SEE: IT leader's guide to achieving digital transformation (Tech Pro Research)

Here are the top 10 disruption myths, and the reality behind them, according to Smith.

1. Disruption is a bad thing

"When you hear the word 'disruption,' you probably have negative thoughts," Smith said. But in reality, "It's not always a bad thing," he added. Something disruptive will always have positive effects and negative effects, and be a threat to some and an opportunity to others, he said. "Disruption is always good for someone," Smith said. "You want to figure out how to make you the someone it's good for."

Business recommendation: Take advantage of the opportunities created by disruption.

2. Disruption is an overused, meaningless buzzword

Disruption fatigue is real, Smith said, but "disruption is the most critical subject to master in the digital age," he added.

Business recommendation: Pay attention to disruptions, and don't ignore them when they are real.

3. Any change is a disruption

People tend to grasp at straws and call any change a disruption, Smiths said. But in reality, "disruption is a fundamental shift in a system or environment, not any change," he said.

Sometimes a new feature or fad is mistaken as a disruption, Smith said. The major difference is longevity. For example, Pokemon Go was a fad, while the iPhone was a disruption, he said. True disruptions are long-term and have many secondary effects, and more disruptions enabled by their existence, he added. For example, consider how the iPhone led to the creation of apps and the replacement of dozens of physical items.

Business recommendation: Ensure your strategy reflects the post-disruption landscape

4. Disruption is only a technology issue

"Often the most impactful disruptions are in society, industry, and business, not technology," Smith said.

Business recommendation: View disruption in the context of what models have been disrupted in business, technology, industry, and society.

SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)

5. Disruption is only for the digital giants

Google, Amazon, and Facebook are not the only disruptors in the game, Smith said. While the digital giants do often get there first, the bulk of disruption happens across thousands of small, medium, and large companies, he added.

Business recommendation: Examine the secondary effects of disruptions, which will affect a broad range of companies and individuals. Take Apple CarPlay, Smith said: It is now accepted by almost every car company as standard equipment. It's basically an "if you can't beat them, join them" mentality, he added.

6. Digital disruption happens only in consumer markets

Disruption often happens in consumer markets first, because these markets tend to be faster moving, Smith said. However, it goes way beyond them into all areas.

Business recommendation: Apply consumer scenarios to understanding digital disruption in B2B. Recognize, prioritize, and respond.

7. The most hyped disruptions are the most disruptive

If you were to ask someone "What are the most disruptive technologies?", the answers are always the most hyped technologies, like blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR), Smith said. However, for something to be disruptive, it must first reach mainstream adoption, which those technologies have not, he added. While hype declines over time, the secondary effects from actual disruptions do not, Smith said.

Business recommendation: Use Gartner's Digital Disruption Scale to determine when a disruption is hyped versus when it is mainstream based on evidence.

8. Innovation, transformation, and disruption are all the same

Innovation and transformation are two different things that exist in a cycle, that are sometimes interrupted by, guided by, or result in disruption, Smith said.

Business recommendation: Incorporate disruption analysis into your innovation and/or transformation efforts.

9. Disruption is someone else's problem

IT people want to support and bring value to the business, and are uniquely qualified to do so, because so much of what's happening in the world of disruption is related to technology, Smith said.

Business recommendation: CIOs and technologists should work with CXOs to leverage disruption in their strategies. "Establish yourself as a disruption CIO," Smith said.

10. We don't have to worry about disruption. We are unassailable.

Complacency may be the most dangerous myth of all. "Nobody is unassailable," Smith said. "Even the disruptors can be disrupted."

Business recommendation: Avoid arrogance. Scenario-plan. And don't be afraid to self-disrupt.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/phototechno

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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