Disruption is one of those words that’s been defined, reintrepreted, and unpacked so many times that I have tried to banish it from my vocabulary, except in etymological discussions like this. There are those “disruption cultists” for whom the word is a signifier for all things good and holy about the technological revolution — the taking down of incumbents and the installation of better, stronger, faster companies. Then there are those like the New Yorker’s Jill Lepore who wrote a massive piece this week taking aim at disruption for disruption’s sake, calling the term little more than a “theory about why businesses fail. It’s not more than that. It doesn’t explain change. It’s not a law of nature.”
Naturally, Lepore set off a predictable Twitter fracas between the disruptors and the disrupted, the West Coast tech elite and the East Coast anti-tech elite (these Twitter fights are generally little more than arguments between two breeds of elitists). To make matters worse, Twitter’s character limits and rapid pace don’t exactly lend themselves to careful critical analysis.
Of course that’s what the “Tweetstorm” is for, and quite predictably the grandaddy disruptor Marc Andreessen has weighed in on the topic. In short? Disruption is more than a myth, or the mere senescence of a large company. Disruptors disrupt each other constantly and so these dichotomies of “old world vs new world” and “big vs small” are false.
Finally, Andreessen attributes society’s distaste for disruption to an attitude of “presumptuousness” or “arrogance” coming from many in the tech world. In other words, be disruptive, but don’t be a dick about it.
(WordPress appears to be having some issues with embeds at the moment so for now here are the tweets as screenshots)