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Disruption, Why It’s Important
Disruption is fundamentally about change; specifically, it’s about a change to the status quo that we all find comforting.
New Deal for Buildings
Disruption is fundamentally about change; specifically, it’s about a change to the status quo that we all find comforting. But disruption is a very specific type of change. It’s a type of change that creates a disturbance to the status quo beyond the ebbs and flows of day-to-day variances, and it’s also a type of change that can affect people’s work and businesses in very major ways, both in positive and negative ways.
There are three kinds of people when it comes to change: those who resist it, those who accept it, and those who make it happen. In this brief article, I’ll share my views on how these different types of people should look at disruption.
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved disruption, though I really didn’t think of it as disruption, it was just how I think and did things. To me, finding a problem is ecstasy, for without seeing and understanding problems, very little gets done in our world. Over the years, some have thought of me as a complainer since I often say “the problem with X is….”. In reality, it’s my way of finding things to do to make the world a better place.
I would say that many, if not all, of the great creators and innovators in the world, are people who think like this. From Einstein’s ride on the tram that propelled him to understanding space-time, to Steve Jobs’ reframing the personal computer as a problem of usability rather than features. Many of us also think this way in everyday lives and work; putting something in a suggestion box at work, volunteering at a church or community group to help with a needy project, and learning a new skill to improve our career. All of these actions come out of an observation of something that’s not right or could be better and then taking action to make those things better.
Without this core feature of the human story, we would still be neanderthals or hunter-gatherers in Africa. People who create disruption are often hailed as visionaries way after their hard work. But during the hard work, many will resent them as they challenge the status quo that serves many adequately. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say!
most of us are in this category; we understand that innovation and
disruption is a normal part of how the world works. Most of us remain
mostly with the status quo but are fairly quick to change to something
new as soon as we see and understand the benefits.
those who are typically assigned well-defined tasks would easily fall
in this category, be they well defined, process-centric project work,
or discrete tasks such as office work, or making your numbers in sales.
Those of us lucky enough to be in this category are typically less
impacted by changes, in those areas anyway.
of us who resist disruption, usually have a reason for their
resistance. Focusing on the business context of this article, I think
there are three major reasons.
is knowledge and understanding the disruption. Since many disruptive
changes occur from a non-obvious set of problems, technology, and
approaches to solve them, many people just simply do not understand why
the disruption is occurring. Quite often the disruptors themselves
don’t know the exact steps of their disruption, so they aren't always
able to explain things well enough. Those resisting also fail to see
how the change will benefit anyone, let alone themselves.
second reason for resisting is simply contentment of the status quo.
Change is expensive in financial terms, but also in terms of having to
think about things differently and changing our habits. Why bother if
the status quo is working just fine thank you. People in this category
aren’t as much resisting disruption, they are just content and adopt
any innovation only when many other people have done so.
third and last reason, which is most relevant in the business context,
is financial. If the way you make decisions is based on maintaining
your existing business model, then disruptions can impact you in a
significant financial way. The disruption from clean, renewable energy
is an example; businesses that have spent billions on coal-powered
power plants cannot simply just switch off their coal generators; they
are financed over decades! The same goes for a company that has
invested in, and rely upon an existing channel to maintain their levels
of business; they can’t just walk away from that channel, their
business will tank! This is often referred to as stranded assets, ask
any NYC taxi medallion owner about the value of their assets, I’m sure
you’ll get some of that New York frankness! Understanding the future
business environment is key to many businesses, a sudden and
unpredictable disturbance is never a good
thing in business.
Words of Advice
BAS industry is in the throes of many changes. The “software will eat
the world” thesis from Silicon Valley has shown that one
well-entrenched industry after another has fallen, driven by the
digital disruption. To expect that BAS will not change, or be
significantly impacted by disruption is an exercise of putting your
head in the sand. So, my first advice is to be more open to change in
the coming months and years. It will happen.
The second important advice is to be agile and nimble, and not to allow yourself to fall into the financial hole that forces you to resist disruption. Try and avoid longer-term commitments that will prevent you to adopt something that is clearly better. I am sure that many who manage coal-powered plants would prefer to use clean energy instead, but their financial position prevents them from doing that.
My last advice is to keep your eyes and ears open for impending disruption in BAS.
for one will continue my quest to seek out problems to solve. I have a
few of these in the hopper right now; I hope that they will be received
by the industry as what they are intended to be; new ways to make
buildings and facilities better for those who build, engineer, own,
manage, and occupy them.
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