The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter is famous for his views on creative destruction. Old economic orders are destroyed and replaced by the new that innovation creates. In some instances, the constant march of progress completely destroys companies, businesses and even industries.
While I have a degree in economics I’m not a practicing economist. I strive to be a practical economist and I believe that much of what is happening today isn’t creative destruction but “creative reconstruction.”
Destruction is an elimination and replacement of what went before. While that obviously happens, I believe that more often what is happening is progressive innovation, or what I term creative reconstruction.
Consider 3D printing. In my presentations I show a picture of the first printed car. It isn’t particularly attractive but it is impressive in its achievement. Then I show another car printed two years later that, unlike the first, is completely street legal. And finally, I show a picture of the first printed house, completed in less than 24 hours.(There are a plethora of other printed products including of late printed eyeglass frames.)
3D printing may be replace old processes like traditional homebuilding, but it isn’t replacing homes. Assembly lines have a potential competitor in 3D printers but cars/personal transportation aren’t going away.
While we need to be attentive to what might be destroyed, we also need to be alert to what is being reconstructed. From how public libraries to institutions of higher education to medicine, the essence of these activities–information, education and health–aren’t being displaced or replaced. The process and the means of fulfilling that essence is being creatively reconstructed.
How we think and talk about our work affects how we do it. Reconstruction gives us lots of latitude about what we do differently or better, but also allows us to build on the best traditions, of keeping what shouldn’t be lost and creating new opportunities. Scraping the structure and starting over is harder and more painstaking than building on the foundations of the past.
What product, service, process or experience can you reconstruct for competitive advantage? How might you take what already exists and combine and modify for an innovative product or solution? That’s what creative reconstruction is all about.
In the future you’ll live somewhere loosely called a home in the foreseeable future. Creative destruction won’t eliminate the need for a residence, but it may well be printed rather than built. But creative reconstruction guarantees that regardless how humble, there is still no place like home.
Mark Sanborn is a bestselling author and acclaimed leadership keynote speaker. For more information about his services, visit www.marksanborn.com.