Hail The Disrupters

Why didn’t the major American broadcast networks create YouTube?

Why didn’t Kodak invent Instagram?

Why didn’t radio stations found Pandora?

I ask my students this all the time. We talk about it every semester.


Because that’s not what industries in decline do. Rather than change course, redirect enegry, or even dip their toes in the new water, they actually harden their positions.

Example: from a life cycle aspect (and not political), the Republican Party is in decline. They steamroll the party to the farthest right on everything, to hold on to what they think they have – or to try to save what’s left. The moderate middle is for a thriving, relevant party. The Democrats are also in decline, but reverse Tea Party factions haven’t really fortified. It’s fair to say that both parties are in need of fresh people and more authentic messaging.

The disrupters in media didn’t com from the industry they shook up. Two Pay Pal guys from Silicon Valley created YouTube.  Kevin Systrom , one of the Instagram founders, worked at Odeo, the precursor to Twitter. His partner and Stanford classmate Mike Krieger was a Brazilian software engineer.

Pandora was thought up by a record producer, Tim Westergren.

The old guard digs in, retrenches, hangs on for dear life. “That’s not what we do!” was, no doubt, the reply to the numerous young employees who dared to walk into the manager’s office and say, “Hey, have we ever thought about…”

Death is a part of the life cycle of everything. It’s not really a surprise that radio, TV and photo companies missed the boat on a most obvious and natural extensions of their products.

What can you say at your office tomorrow that will change the world?

Be prepared to be blown off.

Maybe the next disrupter is you…

Picture of John ScottJohn Scott is a media studies instructor and the career services manager at the School of Multimedia Communications, Academy of Art University San Francisco. Check out John’s book, “Destination: Reinvention”, on sale in the Amazon bookstore. He finally got the audiobook finished – it’ll be out in a couple of weeks on Audible and iTunes. The hardcover edition is on sale now at Lulu.

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