01 Sep What is a “Disruptor?” Think About Your Quality of Life
In business terms, a “disruption” is an innovation that creates a new market and new customer habits within a particular industry, rattling the established, industry-leading companies and the value of their products and services.
You probably hear about disruption or “disruptors” a lot these days, especially digital or technological disruption. Some high profile examples of digital and technological disruptors who’ve changed entire industries during this young century include Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix. During the late 20th Century, two of the biggest tech disruptors were Microsoft and Intel.
And like almost anything else that’s constantly discussed across industries and disciplines and, eventually, popular culture, disruption has became a buzzword that means different things to different people.
In fact, I think of a disruptor in terms of both business and human needs. More specifically, I define a disruptor as any emerging force that has the capability, ultimately, to significantly improve or weaken an individual’s quality of life.
Given my expanded definition, the disruptor doesn’t just have to be an entity like Amazon or hot fields like artificial intelligence and biotechnology. It can also can be a set of conditions, such as the knowledge increase and privacy invasion caused by algorithms; the destructive impact of climate change amid economic growth; the injustices of numerous industrial complexes such as the prison system and the gun lobby; and the national or international debt that weakens economies and contributes to job loss.
What role do each of the disruptors cited in the previous paragraph play in your overall quality of life? It’s a question worth considering. Because when all is said and done, each of us wants a high quality of life. Each of us wants to be happy.
What generates happiness? Love and relationships. Physical and mental health. Freedom. Inclusion. Interesting and well-paying work. A nice place to live. Safety. The resources to do fun activities such as travel and to buy nice clothes and send our kids to college.
The particulars vary for each person, but in general Abraham Maslow described it as well as anyone through his hierarchy or pyramid of needs:
- Self-Actualization Needs (the top of the hierarchy)
- Esteem Needs
- Love/Belonging Needs
- Safety Needs
- Physiological Needs (the bottom of the hierarchy)
Disruption that helps us progress up the hierarchy from physiological to self-actualization is good for our quality of life. Disruption that keeps us scrambling to stabilize the lower layers of the hierarchy is bad for our quality of life.
But the biggest difference-makers between high or low quality of life, in my opinion, are the habits we choose to cultivate in the face of disruption. We can’t control everything that disruption brings about, but we can make conscious choices about how we respond.
In my work, I write, strategize, and coach about how to develop helpful habits within the tools of mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling in order to gain more clarity and career sustainability amid the major, collective disruption caused by algorithms, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, climate change, industrial complexes, and national/international debt.