Home » Disruptive Innovation, Social Media » The Five Stages of Disruption Denial

The Five Stages of Disruption Denial

16 April 2013

From The Harvard Business Review:

I missed Twitter. I first heard about it when everyone did in 2006. And I started an account in a knee-jerk way. But I didn’t grasp it. In those days, I would just stare at the entry box and think, “What?”

Now of course, I pretend Twitter struck me as an irresistibly good idea the first time I heard it and that I was an early champion. I have forgotten and concealed the early days, the days in which I had no clue.

. . . .

The fact of the matter is our professional lives now churn with change. Markets change. Technology changes. Consumers change. Channels change. Competitors change. This is an era of disruption. Not disruption as the occasional event, but disruption as the constant, chronic condition of our professional lives.

. . . .

Stage 2: Repudiation. It turns out there are lots of people who don’t get the new technology and now social life is a little like a competition to show that we’re not “falling for it.” At this point, there can more social capital in saying that we don’t like the tech than that we do.

Stage 2 is marked by snappy one-liners. With the practiced ease of stand-up comedian, we can now be heard saying stuff like, “Twitter. What could I possibly say in 140 characters?” Or, “FourSquare? Why would I want to be mayor of my living room.”

Stage 3. Shaming. This is when we are so persuaded that we’re right and the new innovation is wrong that we are prepared to make fun of the credulous among us. I was on the receiving end after I gave a presentation on new media to a large advertising firm. When I finished, three planners took turns patting me on the head and telling me, “This Twitter thing. It’s just a fad. Give it a couple of months and it will go away.” We heard a lot of this sort of thing about Pinterest in the early days. Now it’s valued at $2.5 billion.

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Disruptive Innovation, Social Media

30 Comments to “The Five Stages of Disruption Denial”

  1. “Not disruption as the occasional event, but disruption as the constant, chronic condition of our professional lives.”

    Right, and it hasn’t been that way since the 1800s? Pinterest ain’t electricity, you know. (Or am I just at Stage 2?)

    • I don’t know if I would say since the 1800’s, but I would definitely agree since the widespread adoption of the personal computer and the internet, Tortuga.

  2. I’m the last holdout!! Joined Twitter a year or two ago. Never sent a message. No idea now what my id/login details are.

    It still seems like a trap for the unwary.

    Does Twitter have real social utility?

    • Michael E. Walston

      You couldn’t prove it by me.

      • Does Twitter have its share of vapid idiots? Yes.

        Are there lots of people with something worthwhile to say? Again, yes.

        But to doubt its social utility is ignorant. You don’t have to look any further than yesterday’s bombing in Boston. Twitter was the primary source of communication for the police, EMS, Red Cross, etc. to get info out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

        They used Twitter to tell people the areas to stay away from, where to get the list of runners so people could check on their loved ones, tell people where to go to give blood (also, tell them that they’d received enough blood and to schedule for another time) … all in real time.

        In fact, once cell phone calling was shut down to prevent remote detonations, Twitter became pretty much the only way to effectively disseminate info.

        In the aftermath, the FBI used Twitter in a call for any and all videos/photos taken at the scene.

        I’ll avoid the snarky closing and just say, “Yes, it can be very useful.”

        • I think there is a difference between doubting and questioning. Subtle perhaps. Without being snarky.

          • I wasn’t replying to John’s inquiry, but to Michael’s answer. The “If I don’t use x it must be useless” thing drives me up a wall. And I don’t even use Twitter all that much anymore.

            Edited to add: I guess you’re John; I thought it was just a conicidence. 😀

    • The Passive Voice consistently receives about 20% of its new visitors on click-throughs from Tweets I send out for each new post, John.

      • PG –

        An interesting and relevant metric. Answers my question, as does the use of Twitter by FBI etc.

        • I know, replying to myself…

          Up-to-date press item –

          Other stories surfaced about cell phone service being shut down in Boston and that more than two devices were found after the attack. Officials confirmed that both reports were incorrect.

          So where does twitter figure, again? Also, if the cell phone service had been shut down, how were twitter messages to be distributed, assuming a lot would be cell phone-based?

          Just wondering…

          • The disinfo (which has always been a problem) isn’t Twitter’s fault, as both of those reports came from news outlets. And ATT, for example, opened up their WiFi, which meant it was still viable.

            Look, it’s clear that you want to believe that Twitter is useless (or a “trap for the unwary”) because you don’t use it, so I’m going to stop trying to convince you otherwise.

    • Not unless you’re Justin Bieber or some other celebrity whose fans are hanging onto every their latest idiotic excretion.

      • Says a guy who is commenting on someone else’s blog. Someone else who, I might add, is active on Twitter.

        • A blog isn’t twitter. Blogs predated twitter, you might know. I have a Twitter account, but rarely tweet. Furthermore, my point was about its effectiveness or lack thereof for most authors. You missed that by going for the gothcha. You didn’t get me. You’re shooting blanks with this comment.

          • You did a pretty poor job at getting your point across, especially in light of your other comment on the subject.

            You can backpedal or say what you “meant” to say now, but both of your comments were clearly meant as an insult to people who are active on Twitter, and that includes this blog’s host .

            • Dan,

              I dont think Peter,or John or Michael were trying to attack you. Neither are they out to get you.

              People have the right to criticize the hype surrounding Twitter. It doesn’t help Twitter fanatics try to take credit for everything (like your Boston example). Last year, in the Arab spring, people were screaming how Twitter was cause of the Arabs revolting; because, you know, the Arabs are too stupid to have revolted without Westerners giving them Twitter.


              • A) I’m not a Twitter fanatic. For the most part, it’s pretty annoying. I just gave an example of widespread use in response to a crisis. What I didn’t say was, “OMG, Selena Gomez has such deep thoughts!”

                B) Ask Boston emergency personnel why their first option for getting out necessary info was Twitter.

                C) I don’t know who was screaming that Twitter “caused” the Arab Spring, but it sure was used widely.

                D) I don’t think anyone’s out to get me, but explain how “Your disinterest–which I share–is a sign of psychological health” isn’t meant as an insult.

  3. I don’t get Twitter at all, really. I kinda use it, but usually just to repost blog post information. The impression I get is that it’s mostly full of people selling things or claiming that you too can be a successful Twitter marketer. Lots of fake people, and people looking for large numbers of followers without really interacting.

    For people with the time and personality to take advantage of it, I’m sure it’s great. For me? Not so much. It generates a very small number of hits on my website, but I probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference if I dropped it altogether.

    That said, I don’t really understand Pinterest, either. Well, I get it more than I get Twitter. Most of this social networking stuff just doesn’t interest me. As a self-publishing author, people keep telling me that I’m missing the boat by not using these things more. I just can’t bring myself to care that much.

    • A group I know has asked me to join them in spamming each other’s ad tweets on an hourly basis, and I refuse. They insist it is the only reason people use Twitter. I know that people use it for a lot of reasons beside spamming ads. A lot of people who use it like Facebook, with their status updates and photos. Since Facebook has changed to wanting to charge for professional page posts showing up to others, some use Twitter a lot more now for that.

      I love Pinterest, but you have to have really useful content for it to work, and most of what people want is food, design, and crafts, not writing or business.

    • Pinterest can be useful if you have pretty covers. I’ve got one person (whose name I totally don’t recognize) following my Pinterest board for my books… And it does create a passive advertising footprint that people may happen across via a search engine. Mostly it’s just a way to show off the cool things that interest you — my crochet-and-knitting (yarnbending!) pinterest board has little to do with my writing, but it’s a place I can stick patterns that doesn’t take up physical space…

      I use twitter to follow certain people who are using twitter, and chat. I don’t use it for “networking” or “dissemination.” I also tend to block any “promoted tweets” that show up on my list unless they actually interest me.

    • Hurray for you! Your disinterest–which I share–is a sign of psychological health.

    • I adore Pinterest. While I do use it for lots of “home” stuff, I also follow a number of readers (search on “Books Worth Reading”, a common board name that readers use). I have a board called “book inspiration” where I log photos of possible settings (appeals to those who like the home/decorating stuff), photos of actors that inspire characters (because movie stars are always popular), clothes (since I write historical romance), interesting objects that could become McGuffins, etc.

      I’m not pubbed, so now is the time for me to connect to readers via those kinds of things. Since I write historical, I connect with folks with boards of historical clothing. Since I’m working on a steampunk romance, I search for folks who are into steampunk and follow them and repin everything from wild outfits to airships to fantastical ray guns. Since I include gothic romance elements, I follow folks who have whole boards devoted to book covers from the heyday of the gothic romance. I connect to folks who self-identify as readers, rather than writers. And then someday, when I’m pubbed, those audiences will already be baked into what I’m already posting, and have already proven to have a shared interest. A picture is worth a thousand words, and Pinterest is ALL pictures. Bright and interesting is much less easy to ignore than 140 characters of plain text.

  4. I like Twitter. I don’t spend a lot of time on it, but I’ve made real connections with a handful of people on it and I enjoy the “conversations” I have with them. Admittedly, I ignore the vast majority of tweets flowing through, because they are indeed just sales pitches. I use the list function to be sure I see the tweets of the few people with whom I actually have connection. That’s a nice thing.

  5. I must be the odd man out here because I rarely see any sales pitches in my tweets. (I used to see the occasional “sponsored tweet” from some company like Cheetos or Pepsi-Cola, but since I started blocking those sources I’ve seen a lot fewer.) Of course most of the people in my feed post political or humorous tweets, so my Twitter experience is much different from others here.

    Still, I don’t see how Twitter can help anyone sell more of anything. Unless, say, they’re True Fans who want to be closer to their writer/artist & need those tweets to keep the bond between them strong. (FWIW, I have John Cleese in my Twitter feed, & he rarely posts; I’d drop him if it made any difference in managing all of the tweets I struggle to keep up with.)

  6. All truth passes through three stages.

    First, it is ridiculed.

    Second, it is violently opposed.

    Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

    Arthur Schopenhauer


    I think this article speaks to the changes in the Publishing field as well as Twitter. With each in-road indies make, they face these challenges.

  7. I don’t like any social media. I comprehend its uses, I understand why other people like it, and I could see instantly that various forms of it would be wildly popular. But frankly, I haven’t gotten any fun out of social media since my ISP stopped carrying Usenet. Nowadays, it’s all exactly designed for the way I don’t think, and often the aesthetics are exactly what I would choose as the Worst Possible Look.

    I’m pretty introverted, so perhaps that’s why. Usenet back in the day was pretty much instantly friendly, cute, and easy to comprehend (albeit with its dark side), because it was designed by geeks for geeks. This other stuff isn’t.

  8. I didn’t get the hang of Twitter until Arab Spring, and then I finally “got” it in spades.

    The thing about Twitter is that it’s not really social media. Yes, there is interaction and discussion, but it’s of a different sort than other social media. What Twitter really is, is a charged up microblogging site. It isn’t about “friending,” it’s about following.

    If you get Twitter mixed up with Facebook and go around following people because they follow you, it will be useless. If, on the other hand, you follow accounts which are interesting, it will be an amazing “news feed” for you.

    • I agree with Camille – if you follow the right people/entities Twitter can be very useful. I love Twitter during Nanowrimo when I can follow along with @nanowordsprints and outside Nano when #amwriting also shows me that I’mnot the only one currently facing down the blank page. I have followed some great hashtag chat conversations on professional topics, and been glad to see people live-tweeting conference sessions. For local community I live in Seattle where we have some very active neighborhood blogs and the fastest way to find out what those sirens were is usually the neighborhood blog Twitter account, because it is a real person on scene or retweeting from someone who is.

      But each social network has its own use. Some people use notebooks to write novels and some to write algebra notes and some to write love lettes with hearts over the letter “i”. Don’t hate or love the notebook, just figure out how you want to use it, or if you’d prefer a typewriter or a legal pad.

      I think tumblr is ideal for a journalism newsfeed and I am loving pinterest for work in progress inspiration collection, using it the same way that Kat describes. If I have some follow there who might pick up many nicely when they show up then yay.

      (Apologies for any smartphone related typos)

    • “If you get Twitter mixed up with Facebook and go around following people because they follow you, it will be useless. If, on the other hand, you follow accounts which are interesting, it will be an amazing “news feed” for you.”

      Absolutely! This is how I use Twitter, and its become my go to source for news. But selectively following is the key. I can’t imagine people following thousands of people indiscriminately, that has to produce a totally worthless feed. I don’t get many “buy my book” tweets, but there are some. Mainly, though, they’re from writers who’s feed consistently adds something of value–a thought, a link, a discussion–to my own so I have no problem at all with them. I’ve even bought a few books I saw promoted or recommended in tweets. But if somebody is just throwing out sales pitches all day every day, I unfollow and never have to see them again.

      Personally, I strongly recommend Twitter.

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