Technology of the Disruptive Variety
Every so often, a common expression in the English language takes on a more colorful and descriptive meaning. A phrase such as, “throw the baby out with the bath water” could often be misunderstood. Really, it is an saying alluding to a practice several centuries ago when hot running water was unavailable. Whole families bathed one after another in front of the fire in a single tub. Traditionally, the man of the house bathed first, then his wife, the children, and finally, the baby. By this time, the water would be so dirty that an immersed infant could not be seen. The phrase ultimately evolved as the older family member said to the assigned tub-drainer, “Remember not to throw the baby out with the bath water.” Other phrases are equally as interesting if you just take a short trip backwards in time to understand their derivation. We will eventually get to the point through the use of metaphors, anecdotes.
Another metaphor that has been passed down over the years is the phrase, “acid test.” We use this term in modern English to express the ultimate, best, or even the final confirming test. However, the derivation comes from a very precise meaning. Before governments arbitrarily informed their citizens exactly how much their silly money was worth, coins were made of precious metals; obviously, the most valuable were made of gold. Before we became sophisticated and created a value for scrap paper, nitric acid was used to determine the purity of gold as a currency. Along the same lines, the term level best—a term that now means one’s very best effort—originally came from the metaphor of gold-panning in 19th century America. For the best results, the pan was kept as level as possible in order to see any fragments of gold.
A Straw Man, today, means a person placed in a position to confuse an issue. In medieval England, a proper occupation for poor men would be to skulk in the region of the law courts, offering to be a false witness for anyone that had their price. They confirmed their availability to lie for either side by wearing a straw in their shoe.
However, this is not meant to be a dissertation on the origination of phrases or metaphors—I merely wanted to use them as a way to slide gently into an explanation of the term “disruptive technologies”. You have all heard the term, but the question is, when you see one of these things how do you really know that it is indeed disruptive? In order to be disruptive a product has to make into the marketplace and that is what makes it disruptive, it eliminates the need for something else or it immediately becomes critical to own.
In reality, the term means exactly what it sounds like. Generally, a disruptive technology is any new concept that has the availability of changing the way things are accomplished, and doing so on a grand scale. Disruptive technologies are usually created only after the underlying foundation of their conceptualization has been accomplished. For example, the wheel had to be invented before a car could be built, a crane had to exist before a skyscraper could be fashioned, and synthetic wings had to be fashioned before the concept of a plane could even be conceived. Without the proper foundation, there is no innovation; however, we are now living in a time of exponential knowledge foundation growth.
Although it is rare, inventors can sometimes work backwards and erect the building blocks by creating a scientific formula proving that something will work. In this case, you will need a different type of foundation block, those physics and mathematical formulations that have been created over the centuries. In short, whether you need physical building blocks, formula based building blocks or chemically based building blocks; almost never does a new theory come out of thin air. However, building the contraption would certainly be “pushing the envelope,” a phrase that originally meant to push and aircraft beyond its know limit, potentially putting the pilot in harm’s way.
An interesting example of this concept would be the atomic bomb, a perception almost inconceivable for its time. We had literally only discovered bits and pieces about how atoms, electrons and the like even worked and yet the fact that the atomic bomb could be built was based on a rather simplistic scientific formula; e=mc². Scientists’ discovery that this amount of energy existed inside of an atom was not particularly helpful in building the bomb’s essential infrastructure. But the fact that it could be done, created the inertia to build the thing. The United States became interested this type of project on August 2, 1939, when Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt that Germany was attempting to purify Uranium-235 and build an atomic bomb. Roosevelt determined that the threat was real and started the Manhattan Project, literally creating the city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In order to create the bomb, experts in enriching uranium first had to create a chain reaction. The extraction and conversion of uranium to uranium metal required gas-centrifuge experts to pull uranium 235 from the isotope uranium 238. This entailed the creation of the largest enrichment plant ever conceived, and for the unheard-of concept of magnetic separation. Two billion dollars were spent between the years 1939 to 1945, and when the first atomic reaction was staged, success was a touch and go situation. (An expression evolving from the days of horse-drawn carriages, when wheels of two vehicles touched but no damage was done. Thus, the two carriages could go on their way.)
War is often the “Mother of Invention,” meaning that when your life depends upon the creation of a defensive or offensive weapon, you will put all your resources behind the project and probably come up with something that will work. However, it is easier to diagram a projected advance than it is to manufacture it in quantity. Today, it is important to make the quality first rate. After you have accomplished that step, you can just go ahead and use your product whether or not you are sure if it will work. Hitler’s V-1 Rocket, which was supposed to destroy London, was more a joke than a weapon. However, their scientists learned from their mistakes and created the V-2, a weapon that was deadly. By creating a product with “warts and all”, it may well be refined into something that does the job. Oliver Cromwell coined this phrase while instructing his portrait painter Peter Lely to paint his true likeness, including ‘…roughness, pimples, warts and everything.’ But that was an unusual action for the times.
However, economic war and battles between nations are highly different combat zones. You may not die from economic combat, but you can certainly come out of marketing and production competition economically impaired. The VCR was an outstanding product, but in spite of its timely arrival on the technology stage, two companies almost simultaneously created the same product and a methodology that worked in similar fashions. As indicated earlier, all of the basic technologies had already been created and it became a matter of integration instead of invention. Integration can become highly complex, especially among products that have different ways of achieving the same result. Sony had what was called Beta, Panasonic created the VHS and it became a marketing power struggle for one leader to emerge. Panasonic and Sony attempted to stack the deck. They each licensed as many large companies that they thought could move their product and then started a pervasive advertising campaign that lasted for years. Panasonic was indeed, now “sitting in the catbird seat. The derivation of this phrase stems from the Mocking Bird which is also known as a cat bird. The Mocking bird can always be found at the pinnacle of the tree which gives them a great view of prey and predators. Thus, they are almost never taken by surprise.
At Chapman, we see technology every day of the week, and certainly everyone that walks into our office believes that they have just invented the perfect mouse trap. People become very defensive about their creations, whether or not they make sense. However, the competition to discover new technology rises. More and more people do their homework and the number of people with the ability to create has risen geometrically.
The Internet has created a visible encyclopedia, containing a substantial portion of the world’s knowledge. Every day that goes by, geometrically more people are becoming well-read and sophisticated. Between India and China, almost 2.5 billion people have recently joined the world’s knowledge base. Years ago, it was hard to find a college graduate in the United States. Today, education seems to be de rigor. With so many people being regularly added to the world’s intellectual competition, Chapman, Spira and Carson, LLC (Chapman) expects that innovation is going to be enhanced at, literally, an exponential rate. As innovation runs the gambit of industries, new technologies will become more difficult to identify as to their success or failure. An interesting observation was recently made by the United States Patent Office in which they noticed that when large scientific symposiums are held, the number of patent applications increase dramatically. What the attendees have found at the meeting is another building block that did not exist before, and they can use that block to solve a particular riddle that was impairing their project.
However, at the same time, we at Chapman feel extremely comfortable with what we perceive to be our role in the impending intellectual avalanche. Innovation, while continuing to be the key to our progress, is in addition, the key to wealth. Intellectual property rights, which were considered a mockery not too many years ago, are being adopted and protected by more and more countries. Here in the United States, anyone can protect their concepts with a patent, provided they have a novel concept or invention that they thought of first. Through honing our skills in attempting to understand numerous forms of technology and the singularity of marketing these innovations, Chapman has become an influential and reliable authority in structuring the detection of those products of our generation will be the ones to carry the label, disruptive technology and become a must have products. Creating a new artifact is not nearly enough; the critical components are quality, price and need. They are a tightly clustered package and one cannot stand without the others.
Packaged delivery is an equally important step in the evolution of a world class innovation. Even if you have developed the most beautiful and inexpensive product what would appear to be a astounding price, it will not matter if no one knows that it exists. Communications, advertising and marketing skills are a requisite for success, no matter what that product may be. Take the sad demise of Nicholas Tesla for example. Tesla literally was able to beat Thomas Edison to the invention table with numerous discoveries now credited to the Wizard of Menlo Park. However, it was Edison who knew how to protect himself from an intellectual property point of view. Edison knew how to profit from either what he had created or what he had stolen, whatever the case may have been. Tesla was unable to “read between the lines,” as Edison picked his brain dry. The phrase comes from the fact that in earlier times, mail was not particularly private and people had to resort to extreme measures to keep anything a secret. They would write with some sort of “invisible ink” between the written lines and that ink could only be seen when an agent was added to the mix such as heat, carvings or acid.
Tesla, who invented numerous disruptive technologies- perhaps more than any person who ever lived, died in the poor house while Thomas Edison who pretended to by his friend, picked him clean. Edison was a self-promoting egomaniac who studied the art of protecting intellectual property and died rich and famous. The art of the deal as espoused by The Donald is not to invent for the pure sake of invention but to leave a legacy and live a comfortable life. This may not be a viable option without a more complete knowledge of the law, marketing and advertising nuances. Chapman and their associates are holders of over a hundred patents and have been members of every stock exchange. They are skilled at arranging marketing portals for their clients. Intellectually, we understand the system and our skills have been utilized by such institutions as the United Nations, the United States Congress and the American Security Council’s National Advisory Board.
Let us know your thoughts and we may be a valuable asset in your reach for the stars.