I try not to get frustrated when the marketers and business people who know nothing about real technological change slap a word on any data with a steep graph and take credit the way the witch doctor takes credit for the ending of a lunar eclipse.
But I feel my blood pressure rise when a news source I respect like the venerable Economist tweets: “This is what disruption looks like,” with a graph showing text messaging leveling off about the same time WhatsApp started. The purely causal conclusion is that WhatsApp is pummeling the TXT messaging business. Except text messaging started to plateau before WhatsApp came on the scene.
Disruption is the automobile in 1920. It’s new, it goes faster than horses, you can leave it in a barn for weeks and you don’t have to put fuel in it. You can go farther, carry more, and be a superhero. Disruption changes everything and makes the old look pathetic.
Doing the same exact thing in a slightly different way isn’t disruptive. Sending texts over WhatsApp is still sending texts. It’s no faster, it’s no richer, and it doesn’t actually change anything. Just what line item you get billed under – SMS texting or Data Plan.
If WhatsApp was putting AT&T out of business, that would be disruptive. But the phone companies still charge me an arm and a leg for data. So it’s not SMS data, but instead Internet data. The fact that most people don’t even know the difference tells you how little disruption this is.
My career is based on creating change. I like to say that I leave a wake of reason in my path – it’s not about creating disruption for disruption’s sake. It’s also not about taking credit for things that just sort of happen along the way, like people shifting to Facebook Messaging, GTalk, and WhatsApp.
Go ahead, find some really remarkable shifts in technology, like the fact that our phones are pretty much computers and that you can get 4G data in the middle of Wyoming. Show how the world is changing because it’s getting more connected, and then do something with that data.
Just stop rattling the sticks and praying to the God of Disruption.