Digital Disruption Myths

CIOs who understand the reality of digital disruption can turn it into opportunities.

Uber is heralded as a disruptor because of its impact on the taxi industry. It’s more than that. It has fundamentally affected several of what Gartner calls the four elements of disruption: business, technology, industry and society. That is the mark of a true disruptor.

Such widespread, fundamental change brings with it myths and misconceptions as disruption is frequently surrounded by hype and confusion — especially in IT.

The reality is, disruption is always good for someone

“Myths are false friends. They are everywhere, which is why we have to worry about myths about disruptions,” said David Smith, Gartner Distinguished VP, at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2018 in Orlando, FL. “They get in the way, impede innovation and give us false hope.”

As digital disruption is the single biggest change facing organizations today, it’s the most critical subject for CIOs to master.

Myth No. 1: Disruption is a bad thing

The reality is, disruption is always good for someone. But it is not inherently good or bad. For some it’s an opportunity, for others it’s a threat. Don’t dwell on the negative. Instead, take advantage of the possibilities the disruption creates.

Myth No. 2: Disruption is an overused buzzword

Disruption is an overused term and disruption fatigue is real. But disruption is also incredibly relevant and important. Don’t ignore it. Ask questions to steer the discussion to what matters. What is being disrupted and how important is the disruption? What’s the fundamental shift? Who should pay attention and why?

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Myth No. 3: Any change is a disruption

Change does not equal disruption. Disruption occurs when there is a fundamental shift in a system or environment, for example cloud computing or smartphones. Often what is perceived as disruption is actually a feature or a fad such as 3D T.V. or Pokemon Go. Ensure your strategy reflects the post-disruption landscape.

Myth No. 4: Disruption is a technology only issue

While digital disruption will almost always have some element of technology, the technology itself is not necessarily the primary disruptive element. View disruptions in the context of what models have been disrupted in four elements of disruption: business, technology, industry and society.

Myth No. 5: Disruption is only for the digital giants

Digital giants, such Amazon, Google and Apple, might disrupt first, but the bulk of disruption happens across thousands of small medium and large companies. Pay attention to and learn from these digital giants. Create action plans that lead to organizational, cultural, financial or business model change to begin the process of exploiting a disruption. Examine also the secondary effects of disruptions, which affect a broad range of companies and individuals.

Read more: Embrace Instability for the Digital World

Myth No. 6: Digital disruption happens only in consumer markets

The reality is digital disruption is frequently first seen in consumer markets, but its impact extends into many different markets and businesses. This is largely a result of the phenomenon known as the consumerization of IT, or when consumer disruptions are adopted by IT. Put yourself in the users’ shoes and apply consumer scenarios to understand digital disruption in B2B.

Myth No. 7: The most hyped disruptions are the most disruptive

Artificial intelligence, blockchain and virtual reality receive a lot of hype and visibility. But they are not mature enough to be considered true disruptions — yet. True disruptions have mainstream adoption as well secondary effects. While hype declines over time, those secondary effects do not.

Read more: Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2019

Myth No. 8: Innovation, transformation and disruption are all the same thing

Innovation and transformation are two different things that exist in a virtuous cycle. Sometimes one interrupts or guides the other, resulting in disruption. Don’t lose sight of the link between the two. Incorporate disruption analysis into your innovation and/or transformation efforts.

Myth No. 9: Disruption is someone else’s problem

Disruption affects everyone. CIOs and IT leaders are often uniquely qualified to identify it. However, it’s not always the CIO or IT staff that encounters disruptors or disruptive opportunities as they occur in areas other than technology. Work with enterprise architects and chief strategy officers to forge a strategy for leveraging disruptions and establish yourself as a disruptor CIO.

Myth No. 10: We can’t be disrupted

Anyone can be disrupted, even disruptors. No one is unassailable. Apple must contend with defensive, disruptive tactics from Google, whose Android competes with the iPhone. Visionaries recognize that they can be disrupted and employ self-disrupting strategies to ensure they benefit from the next fundamental change. Avoid arrogance and do not be afraid to self-disrupt.

Gartner clients can read more in The Top 10 Myths About Digital Disruption by David Smith.

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