Disruptive, Disruptiveness, Disruptively
A disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology there. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.
Whitney Johnson wrote a post this week in the Harvard Business Review called Disrupt Yourself. It is a worthy read. Whitney writes that by making a career change she basically disrupted herself. I have mentioned before that I am on a listserv that is comprised of a group of some incredible women. One could describe this group as a significant (on many levels) collection of women trying to disruptive the technology industry. Whitneys blog post was sent to the group and as always people chimed in on the post with a bravo and some interesting comments.
Here is what I wrote:
women define disruptive. we continue to change our goals, our jobs, our direction as we charge down the path of life. men's careers ( not as a rule ) look like a growth chart starting at the bottom and slowly moving upward over the course of their careers. women's charts tend to look a little more erratic as they go up and down depending on where they are in their life mostly because of children and also because as a group we have a bigger bandwidth of interests that might play out over time.
my guess is that everyone on this list is a bit disruptive in their own personal way. personally, i have reinvented myself more times than i can count on one hand.
If you read the first sentence in the Wikipedia definition, it can easily be applied to any career move. Moving forward creates new experiences and I have to believe that the experiences of the past that one carries and applies to the next experience makes each of us better at what we do. It is like aging. There is something to be said for years of experience no matter which new direction you take yourself.
I have had a diverse career starting out as at Macys as I raced as fast as I could up the ladder to buyer and then jumping ship to work in the garment center. Then figuring out how to move up that ladder landing a job that allowed me to grow a company and learn every facet of the business. Then it was time for the kids and I literally jumped ship. Through a random group of freelance gigs helping friends I ended up in the technology business on the media side helping grow a magazine, ezine and conference business. I continued to move forward into the non-profit world and taking my past experiences of growing businesses and putting that to work sitting on a few start-up boards. I took my sales knowledge and applied it to the kids school helping change the way we fundraise as well as sitting on the board there too. Started blogging to write about what was running through my head and eventually started to invest in start-ups myself. Now I am working with an amazing women at NYU creating a conference for women entrepreneurs.
Do all these career moves make sense? Doubtfully but kids came into the picture, life changed, my husbands business changed, we moved, we lived and I just continued to not only reinvent myself each time but disrupt my career. I had golden handcuffs when I worked in the garment industry and I walked away from a serious amount of cash but in the end it was what I had to do.
Many women who have got off the train for the past how many years to raise their families, that experience is resume worthy. That experience makes these women better at the next challenge. We are entering a world of disruption on every level and embracing ourselves as to be disrupted too is the key to innovation and success in our own lives. It is about your skill set and that can easily be moved from industry to industry and job to job.
Here is what I say….disrupt, disrupt, disrupt.