Catch phrases come and go: Transformation, transactional to services, customer-centric, think outside of the box, change or die, innovate or die, release in beta. Each moniker seems to hold its uniqueness for about a week.
"Disruption" - is one such word.
Today, its disruption tomorrow its something else - observing the same thing over and over, calling it something new, expecting different results. In an attempt to understand the temporarily incomprehensible connectivity between multiple events occurring in real time, a snapshot is taken. Then some, predict futures based on this single shot.
Its like watching rapids flow through rocks and stone: some of us see the single rock, others the collection of boulders and still others, the river flowing into the sea. Once a moment is captured on film, we all begin to see the same thing - albeit historically static.
These snapshots are easier to understand and help each other feel good, but aren't these frozen slices of time stifling enlightenment?
What we're really trying to get a feeling for and understanding of, is "Turbulence", not disruption. We suggest describing current, past and future business, economic, political and personal processes as "flows". Inside these flows, there are obstacles that cause turbulence, like the stones in a river.
Turbulence, is defined as a:
"...violent or unsteady movement of air or water, or of some other fluid..."
Turbulence has been difficult to understand and to this day, define. Werner Heisenberg's (not the one from Breaking Bad, the other Heisenberg) studied this phenomena and presented findings in his 1932 doctoral dissertation titled, "On the stability and turbulence of fluid flow." Scientifically defining turbulence is a challenge; a force of nature not easily determined mathematically - this stymies most who study quantum physics.
Turbulence may best be defined by both science and art. Indeed, Leonard da Vinci was described to regard nature "as weaving an infinite variety of elusive patterns on the basic warp and woof of mathematical perfection."
Maybe Leo understood.
"Turbulence provides a perfect example of why a problem is not solved simply by writing down a mathematical equation to describe it."
The business ecosystems contain information 'flows' - we call them workflow - these flows are contained within flows, contained within even more flows and adjacent to and part of an infinite number of eddies and fluid motion. These flows mix, sully, stir and tumble together. ("How to Perform a Basic Workflow" - Here) and when observed, business process turbulence is observed around clogs and static impediments (like printers and copiers). Turbulence can occur around one employee or an entire department.
Look at your business, branch, department, sector, team, or pod and consider how information moves. Typically, when documenting workflow, consultants use interviews to create a picture of how information moves through the organization by way of processes.
It could be a masterpiece.
Add motion to the two dimensional representation and you can see the ebb and flows of your systems - Turbulence.
What's the Difference?
When we look at events as "of a time" happenings, we naturally become myopic and silo'd - we almost become the state we observe. Although this is easier to contemplate, our vision is narrow and its comfortable to look to the past for answers - worse, it becomes simpler to predict the future (a flowing and always in motion stream) based on this static view.
Disruption is an attempt at freezing a point in space and time, labeling it, and treating it as a simple occurrence in a vacuum. This is not how nature works and ALL systems are natural systems.
The place where Innovation and Disruption converge - Turbulence. It's a tough concept to envision.
But wait, there's more. Imagine if you will a free flowing representation of your information flows, complete with rapids, falls, as well as serene segments - expand that vision from two dimensions into three.
Now THAT's Turbulence.