Are you discounting the impact of disruption?

March 27th, 2018 | By

Are you discounting the impact of disruption?

Are you discounting the impact of disruption? 

Sometimes it’s really hard to envisage the full impact of what we first see as small changes.

And, even when we see clear evidence that something significant may be going on, we are pretty good at dismissing and explaining away the risks. Any one risky scenario of future events can be discounted by saying

  • doesn’t apply to me/us
  • that hasn’t happened before
  • no-one else seems to be concerned
  • (or our iconic Aussie)…she’ll be right mate

On the 7th of Nov 1940 the Tacoma Narrows spectacularly collapsed. At the time it was the third longest suspension bridge in the world after the Golden Gate Bridge (1280m) and the George Washington Bridge (1068m).


Early signs for concern….dismissed!

Workers on the bridge had nicknamed it “Galloping Gertie” due to its tendency to move up and down. In fact, it had become a tourist attraction on windy days in its first (and last) 4 months of life.

There were several attempts to minimise the bridges movement, but none were effective.

On the day of the collapse, a lone car remained on the bridge, abandoned by owner Leonard Coatsworth.

Some things are only believable when you see them…


The fact the bridge was still in use up until the day of the collapse is exactly the point, ‘how could it possibly collapse?’

Surely one of the most curious things about this video is the outward calm displayed by Professor Frederick Farquharson departing the bridge after trying in vain to rescue Leonard Costworth’s dog Tubby from the Buick. It shows just how much we can underestimate what is about to happen…(or perhaps it just wasn’t cool to run for your life in 1940?)

Its not like our business world has ever dismissed, ignored or denounced early warning signs of disruptive threats (cough, splutter).

Try these from our entertainment, communications and retail worlds…

Dick Smith, Channel 10 and Toys R Us…

and before them

Palm, Nokia and Microsoft

and before them

Barnes and Noble, Borders and Blockbuster

Or more specifically – direct quotes – Foot In Mouth: 42 Quotes From Big Corporate Execs Who Laughed Off Disruption When It Hit

What disruption headwinds could you be discounting?

Here’s what I think organisations are currently underestimating,

  • how quickly customers can change their purchasing behaviours
  • the erosion of many long-standing business and revenue models
  • the sheer number of startups targeting any piece of friction between you and your customers
  • the power of disruptive strategies to trump innovative products

One of the best ways you can stay relevant is to have a mindset where you view the status quo as riskier than generating new market strategies and launching them.

If winds can create forces to make thousands of tonnes of steel and concrete behave like water, what’s your metaphor for what the disruptive winds of change mean for your business?

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