The age of disruption – or destruction? – Plus the 7 Gov Stories

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But up front: The age of disruption – or destruction?

There is a fascinating piece in The New Yorker this week headlined The Disruption Machine: What the gospel of innovation gets wrong by Jill Lepore. In the article she goes through the path to our current age of disruption — theories, technologies, and many eager people.

The word “innovate”—to make new—used to have chiefly negative connotations: it signified excessive novelty, without purpose or end… George Washington, on his deathbed, was said to have uttered these words: “Beware of innovation in politics.” Noah Webster warned in his dictionary, in 1828, “It is often dangerous to innovate on the customs of a nation.”

The redemption of innovation began in 1939, when the economist Joseph Schumpeter, in his landmark study of business cycles, used the word to mean bringing new products to market, a usage that spread slowly, and only in the specialized literatures of economics and business. (In 1942, Schumpeter theorized about “creative destruction”; Christensen, retrofitting, believes that Schumpeter was really describing disruptive innovation.) “Innovation” began to seep beyond specialized literatures in the nineteen-nineties, and gained ubiquity only after 9/11. One measure: between 2011 and 2014, Time, the Times Magazine, The New Yorker,Forbes, and even Better Homes and Gardens published special “innovation” issues—the modern equivalents of what, a century ago, were known as “sketches of men of progress.”

The idea of innovation is the idea of progress stripped of the aspirations of the Enlightenment, scrubbed clean of the horrors of the twentieth century, and relieved of its critics. Disruptive innovation goes further, holding out the hope of salvation against the very damnation it describes: disrupt, and you will be saved.

The piece is fascinating and well worth the time. But I think Lepore discounts the real fundamental part of the age of disruption: People. In the end, there is a population that is willing to change — much faster than organizations are generally able to cope with that change.

That being said, the piece generally seems to discount the amazing “innovations” that have come from the age of disruption — some small, and yet many significant.

Honestly — can you imagine living in another period of time? Yes, there are many challenges, but so many opportunities — and an opportunity to reexamine conventional wisdoms. The big challenge is making the honest assessment about those conventions without hanging on to what we have always done — and without lurching into something new just because it is new. No small challenge at all.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. NextGov: HHS Wants to Send Desktops to the Cloud, Expects Other Agencies to Follow- “The Health and Human Services Department is looking to send as many as 200,000 computer desktops into the cloud, according to new documents. The agency is considering turning its employees’ current Windows-based PCs and laptops into thin clients or buying new thin clients — workstations with limited built-in processing power that access applications stored on remote servers.”

  1. Politico: Top House inquisitor Darrell Issa accused the IRS Commissioner on Monday of deceiving Congress about the disappearance of ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails, as the battle between Republicans and the White House reached a fever pitch. Republicans said the credibility of the agency’s chief, a turnaround specialist appointed by President Barack Obama, was shattered at a highly partisan hearing coming days after the agency said Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011, and that two years of emails were lost. That news revived the controversy, which started in May 2013 after Lerner acknowledged the agency gave added scrutiny to nonprofit applications that used words like “tea party.”

  1. FCW: FDA backs off regulating medical device data systems- “The data systems that carry and store information from medical devices like blood pressure readers and glucose monitors are being tagged as low-risk by the Food and Drug Administration so they do not have to comply with regulatory controls, according to a new FDA policy guidance issued June 20.”

  1. Federal News Radio: VA challenged on handling of whistleblower charges- “A top federal investigator has identified “a troubling pattern of deficient patient care” at Veterans Affairs facilities around the country that she says was pointed out by whistleblowers but downplayed by the department. The problems went far beyond the extraordinarily long wait time for some appointments — and the attempts to cover them up — that has put the department under intense scrutiny.”

  1. Government Executive: Bill Would Change TSP Default Settings to More Lucrative Funds- “The Smart Savings Act, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., would change the default enrollment fund in the Thrift Savings Plan for new hires from the G Fund to the lifecycle (L) funds designed to move investors to less risky portfolios as they near retirement. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee plans to mark up the legislation during a business meeting on Wednesday. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reported out that chamber’s companion bill in March.”

  1. Federal Times: DHS, White House eyeing new cyber performance goals- “Officials at the White House and the Homeland Security Department are redeveloping processes to measure cross-agency efforts to improve federal cybersecurity. The revisions include adding metrics to evaluate success and streamlining methods to gather information.”

  1. NextGov: DISA Sekks Deal on Mobile Apps- “The Defense Information Systems Agency announced it would like a discount on its future purchases of mobile applications, as it kicked off the process to evaluate next-generation smartphones and tablet computers. DISA’s Mobility Project Office asked vendors last Friday to provide it with information needed to evolve its mobile application strategy. On June 27, 2013, the agencyawarded a $16 million contract to Digital Management Inc. to securely manage mobile devices and set up a mobile app store.”

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