Project Management

It’s Time to Disrupt Disruption

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

You would have to live under a rock (and a big, heavy one at that) to not know that disruption is a thing. It is the darling concept of the business press. It is the mantra of Silicon Valley. It is the preferred strategic orientation of a legion of entrepreneurs bent on global domination and building the next billion-dollar unicorn (a term that feels progressively less rare and more over-rated the more it gets used).

Not only is disruption the preferred strategic orientation, mind you, it would be easy to think that it is the only strategic orientation. Ever since Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook (sorry, Meta…because that’s disrupted now, too) famously coined the phrase, “Move fast and break things,” the world of business is overrun by players big and small trying to do exactly that.

I’d like to disrupt this notion with an observation, however: disruption as a concept is highly overrated.

To explore why, it helps to first understand exactly what disruption is (and also to acknowledge what it is not).

The theory of disruptive innovation (for it is, indeed, a theory) was conceived by Clayton Christensen, a strategy professor with the Harvard Business School, in the 1990s. One of the first articles on the topic was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1995. In particular, it addressed the strategic question of how market leaders …


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