There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently something that should not have been done at all

David J. Katz
The Startup
Published in
4 min readApr 27, 2018

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The world’s leading experts studied the challenge, identified the opportunity, and — sparing no expense — built the solution. It was perfect. It performed as expected. And, it was useless.

Lately, the term “disruption” is often used, and misused.

In the business community, disruption is used to describe economic transformations, changes to consumer path-to-purchase, shifts toward digital consumption, the “retail apocalypse,” and jobs lost.

At our factory in Central America, disruption takes on a deeper meaning.

Honduras is a country often disrupted by devastating hurricanes. These are tremendous and destructive storms that knock out bridges, create landslides and paralyze the region.

Bridges are a critical lifeline for early responders, evacuation, and supply-chain.

In response to a great need, some of the world’s greatest architects gathered in Honduras to plan and build a bridge like no other — one that would stand up to the worst hurricanes.

These experts studied every known materials tolerance, under every foreseeable stress. They reviewed reams of historical metorlogical and construction data, analyzed thousands of “before and after” photos of damaged bridges, they studied ground water and gravel composition — and a bridge was designed, and then built, to withstand a 100-year storm.

The bridge became the greatest architectural achievement in Honduras, and a point of national pride. Visiting dignitaries were shown the bridge before being escorted to the palace.

And, inevitably, the ultimate test arrived shortly after the bridge’s completion when Hurricane Mitch hit Central America — the most devastating storm in 200 years — a category-5 hurricane, with sustained winds of nearly 200 miles per hour.

Hurricane Mitch dropped over 36 inches of wind-whipped rain on Honduras in less than 12 hours.

In many ways the architects and engineers were successful.

The bridge withstood the storm with virtually no damage, an incredible achievement.

I have a photo, below.

The bridge survived in great shape… However, the storm moved the river, and wiped out the roads.

Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant, once said,

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently something that should not have been done at all.”

Historical success may be a harbinger of tomorrow’s failure.

For companies and managers with a legacy of success, a reliance on previously-dependable best-practices is a handicap. In times of great disruption, we can’t rely on historical strategies, processes, information or expertise.

In times of disruption we need new perspectives, new questions, new metrics and new objectives. This paradigm shift is very difficult for long-standing managers and companies.

For legacy companies radical innovation does not serve current customers, is often highly inefficient, and it disrupts legacy culture and best-practices. For start-ups, disruption is catnip.

In today’s rapidly-evolving business environment… ask new questions, monitor new performance indicators, and create new practices.

© David J. Katz, 2018

The Bridge Story, presented by the author at WWD Summit, 2017

A note on “disruption”

The term “disruption” was coined by Professor Clay Christensen of the Harvard Business School in 1995. Over the past 20 years disruption theory has become a victim of its own success.

“The theory’s core concepts have been widely misunderstood and its basic tenets frequently misapplied. The term is frequently used to describe any situation or innovation from which an industry is shaken up and previously successful incumbents stumble. But that’s much too broad a usage.”

As defined by Professor Christensen, “Disruptive Strategy” asserts that new technology is not intrinsically disruptive; it depends on how it is deployed into the market relative to the business models for existing products or services.

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David J. Katz
The Startup

CMO, story-teller, author, speaker, neuroscientist, alchemist, and cook.