Disruptors among us

This post is more than 3 years old.

Security Theater KnifeIt seems that every healthy and thriving community, city, social group or ecosystem remains healthy and thriving because they can handle having a disruptive element with an important role to play.

The disruptors are the people or events that shake up the status quo, question why things are done a certain way, or introduce an element of chaos or discontent into the system and forces it to evolve, change or adapt.  They are the people whose survival or well-being is not dependent on the stability of the system; revolutionary new ideas and significant change rarely come from those whose livelihoods and sense of security depend on things going along as they are.

Every community or system finds the right ratio of those who keep the status quo humming along, and those who disrupt it.  If you have too many status quo keepers and not enough disruptors, things can stagnate and wither.  If you have too many disruptors or disruptive events and not enough stability, the community can fall apart or the ecosystem can be destroyed.

We must beware of the disruptors who are there only for the personal thrill of making waves, but don't actually have the interests of the community or the long-term survival of the ecosystem at heart.  There can still be value in the questions they raise, but if they are all ideas, challenges and questions but no action or follow-through, or if they are more interested in being loud than being right, they may do more harm than good.

But we can't dismiss the importance of disruptive forces in shaping healthy communities.  We can't just try to make them go away, be quiet, conform.  We need them to show us our blind spots, ask questions we've been unwilling to ask, bring ideas we haven't thought of, call out truths that have yet to be spoken aloud, and hopefully help us make corrections - big or little - back toward a course that is sustainable, healthy and just.

Who are the disruptors in your community, your organization?  Are they educators?  Students? Activists?  Politicians?  Journalists?  Bloggers?  Entrepreneurs?  Neighborhood organizers? Others?  How does your community receive them?

One thought on “Disruptors among us

  1. This story is missing an anecdote... Cough it up, Hardie!

    I'll have to work on my obfuscation before posting answers to your questions, but this is a good one. I think many of the disruptors in my world are not there for the thrill, and not necessarily aware of their impact. The most beneficial ones are those who's mission drive them to do it productively - and I have seen some of those organizations transition to collaborators and get much more done... but I wonder if the disruption (and the legacy/fear of that past) scared partners into the eventual collaboration.

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