Beware buzz words. They can herald some distruptive times to come.
Words are the most intriguing of things. In their pure form they are abstract; stick them on a wall or in a book or magazine and they can morph into anything the reader wants them to be.
So we come to the current buzz-word, ‘Disruption’. In a simpler time, this was the signal for the naughty kid in the class to step outside to reflect on his behaviour (I can’t help but be gender specific, it was usually a boy. Things may have changed there too).
Now we read that disruption and disruptors are welcome in the highest circles. At the GP16 conference in Perth at the end of September, the members’ forum was entitled Revalidation and Digital Disruption. Everyone understands the implications of revalidation, but digital disruption? Should we be thrilled or terrified? Or, perhaps, both at the same time?
So I did what I always do when life throws me a curve ball, I practised what I now know as a little disruptive behaviour. I googled!
Forbes Magazine, the epitome of capital and, one expects, almost certainly brimming with disruptors, offered this as an explanation:
“People are sometimes confused about the difference between innovation and disruption. It’s not exactly black and white, but there are real distinctions, and it’s not just splitting hairs. Think of it this way: Disruptors are innovators, but not all innovators are disruptors — in the same way that a square is a rectangle but not all rectangles are squares.”
‘Good grief!’ were the words that spontaneously disrupted my thoughts, but a sense of fairness prevailed to the innovators (or disruptors) out there, so I read on.
“Innovation and disruption are similar in that they are both makers and builders. Disruption takes a left turn by literally uprooting and changing how we think, behave, do business, learn and go about our day-to-day. Harvard Business School professor and disruption guru Clayton Christensen says that a disruption displaces an existing market, industry, or technology and produces something new and more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative.”
The article then proceeded to list the most disruptive names in business, many of whom, no doubt, spent a good part of their education out in the school corridor reflecting on their behaviour.
While on the surface this seems like a jumble of junk, if you think about it more deeply it does explain a lot of what’s been going on in the health sector.
The gloves are off.
Forget the old-school charm of reform – that offers too much freedom to resist; too much chatter; too much debate. What the health system needs is a good dose of disruption. Tip over the bucket and see what floats.
The only trouble with that theory can be summed up by the old, yet elegant, aphorism – don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Disruption, be it digital or systemic, risks depletion and denudation of the health system’s core strengths (most certainly its workforce) unless there is some sense of explanation, consultation and education.
Our friends at Forbes perhaps don’t look at human capital in the same light as the medical profession. Not to put too fine a point on it, disruption is also a way for some businesses and individuals to make a killing.
While Guru Clayton talks in warm and comforting terms of creating “something new and more efficient” what is not said is that destruction creates a vacuum that needs be filled, most probably by the disruptors. And it will be an era where big will rule because the little guy will simply not be able to afford to play the game.
It puts into perspective the strategic positioning within the health sector by the country’s biggest communication provider, not so very long ago owned by the Australian public.
There are still a lot of words to be bandied about but it is worthwhile for all of us to remember that while the playing field may be changing shape, it is still owned and maintained by the people of Australia. And they can be quite disruptive, particularly at certain crucial moments in an election cycle.
Time to practise a little disruption of your own!