Jill Lepore, in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, skewers the cult of innovation & disruption:
Innovation as an idea in America is historically a negative thing. Innovation in politics is what is to be condemned: To experiment recklessly with a political arrangement is fatal to our domestic tranquillity. So there’s a lot of anti-innovation language around the founding, especially because Republicanism — Jeffersonianism — is considered excessively innovative. Innovation doesn’t assume its modern sense until the 1930s, and then only in a specialized literature.
Disruption has a totally different history. It’s a way to avoid the word “progress,” which, even when it’s secularized, still implies some kind of moral progress. Disruption emerges in the 1990s as progress without any obligation to notions of goodness. And so “disruptive innovation,” which became the buzzword of change in every realm in the first years of the 21st century, including higher education, is basically destroying things because we can and because there can be money made doing so. Before the 1990s, something that was disruptive was like the kid in the class throwing chalk. And that’s what disruptive innovation turned out to really mean. A little less disruptive innovation is called for.
The entire interview is thoughtful & provocative, in the best sense. Lepore has made a career of thorough, well-considered scholarship that is accessible to a broad range of readers. Mull over what she is attempting in These Truths: A History of the United States in contrast with the output of popular “thought-leaders” like Malcolm Gladwell & Doris Kearns Goodwin, or the flocks of elitist academics (of all stripes) who deliberately prattle in their insular, turgid jargon. Her interview is worth reading in its entirety; there’s simply too much to quote.