By David E. Black
Date Published: 5/1/2017


We have all encountered disruptive influences in our businesses operations. The Great Recession of 2008 was a disruptor, large increases in healthcare rates year over year are disruptors. The post-recession “new normal” is a disruption. There are also people who are disruptors, someone the boss hired to “shake things up,” disrupt the status quo … sometimes for good, sometimes not so good.

There are disruptors in government as well. There are policy changes on spending priorities, on approaches to government reform—face it, everyone is about reforming government, but it can be handled in multiple ways. New policies of a new governor could disrupt the way business is done throughout the Commonwealth. A change in environmental regulation enforcement, a change in tax collection policy, a change in licensing at the Department of State, or changes in welfare policy. Changes in administration or changes in laws passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor could be disruptors—good or bad.

Many times in business, adding a disruptor (employee) to staff is a conscious decision. Many disruptors are seen as innovators. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak clearly turned technology on its head with Microsoft and Apple, respectively. Frank McNamara founded Diners Club Credit Card in 1949, before partnering with a member of the Bloomingdale family to start what we know today at credit cards. Henry Ford, Orville and Wilbur Wright were disruptors, dramatically changing the status quo on transportation and where we can live.

There are less famous disruptors, and many unknown disruptors since they only achieved disrupting without birthing any kind of innovation. That’s the unique thing about being known as a disruptor. For a moment in time, while disruption is happening, it is unclear if this will be a good or a bad thing.

This brings us to the world’s currently most famous disruptor: President Donald Trump. I’m not making a judgement here good or bad, just making the case he is a disruptive force in government. He ran on a pledge to disrupt the status quo, to “drain the swamp,” to “make America great again.” He ran on a pledge to be a disruptor. So how’s it going so far?

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