Right now I am teaching a class called Innovation for Social Good. On Monday we talked about disruptive technologies, as it was the focus of our reading. The main things address in the reading were the rise of the mobile phone, increased connectivity, and BIG DATA (aka the ability to track inefficiency, impact, and demographics with increasing ease – or frustration depending on your analytics department). We had some really good discussion about how and if these “disruptive technologies” were benefiting the world. Mixed responses. But then I asked for examples of other disruptive technologies perhaps from before the internet and cell phone era. Looking at their faces, you might assume I had asked them to translate Taylor Swift into Latin.
But it left me thinking “What are the things that tend to disrupt business as usual, not just now but throughout history?” … And then it hit me, stories. Often the most disruptive thing you can do is tell a good story that makes people pay attention. Compliment it with a concrete action, like buy this shoe, eat more subs, or secure better access to education for young women. It is true that technology will affect the medium through which stories get told – be it the headlines of a newspaper, blog post, or podcast – but that has not changed the fact that it is stories to which we most likely to listen, remember, and respond to.
It makes me realize that maybe “new” isn’t necessary. Maybe looking at the things that have proved themselves timeless will provide insight into what is truly valuable going forward. Maybe the key to moving forward is to recognize what has kept us going.
Maybe we just need to listen closely to the right stories.