I Like Disruption Jargon

So I’m a big fan of one category of business jargon: disruption. Now, to be clear I don’t think it’s a useful general theory of business. It’s just an excellent metaphor and an interesting collection of stories about innovation. That’s it (and that’s enough!).

One of the founding insights of the movement is that there is a bias by makers of products to over-engineer. Best case is that this is driven by the requirements of a minority of very vocal, high-end users. Worst case, it’s driven by the unmarketable whims of engineers. Either way, the product strays from the core value it gives to customers (the “Job to be done” in the jargon) and even company management can lose sight of which features are the killers amid the noise of the bundle.

Fast forward a few years. Technology advances and features get updated. But without a clear idea for which features drive demand, it’s easy to fall off the cutting edge. Along comes a startup who discovers this, focuses on customer need, unbundles the bloat and bang. Disruption.

So out in the wild, look for bloated bundles or other signs of over-engineering when thinking of business ideas. In reinsurance, I sometimes think of catastrophe models as a candidate. They’re incredibly complex and don’t disclose their inner workings to customers. There’s a real movement afoot to pull the science apart from the platform and people are already working on this.

But is that disruption on its own? Nobody seems interested in radically cheaper products in this business. Maybe that’s just how enterprise software works.

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