The Danger of Creative Destruction

I’m currently reading Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. The book is about how nations throughout history reached prosperity or poverty. In essence, nations reach prosperity through innovations that bring them to new economic heights. The Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century is a prime example.

Such innovations have a “negative” effect, though: they cause creative destruction. The new replaces the old. As a result, many people lose their jobs if they can’t keep up with the new. With the mechanization of textile production, for instance, those who did the work by hand eventually lost their jobs.

The danger of creative destruction is real and it remains today. Automation, for instance, could replace 40% of jobs in the next 15 years. We could get left behind if we aren’t careful.

This is something that I’m thinking about lately. You see, I have been blogging here for 13 years. While that might show longevity, it also shows that I’m prone to creative destruction. A new way of doing things could come anytime and leave me behind. If I’m not careful, I could become a victim of it.

But creative destruction could become a big opportunity if we are among those who initiate it. There are many examples of it in the business world. Microsoft took off in the microcomputer revolution which was creative destruction to old computer manufacturers. Amazon took off in the Internet revolution which was creative destruction to brick-and-mortar stores. Apple took off in the smartphone revolution which was creative destruction to old phone manufacturers.

On the individual level, I believe that surviving creative destruction requires you to become a versatilist: a person who can quickly adapt to new situations and take advantage of them. You will then be able to ride a new wave when it comes.

A key ingredient to becoming a versatilist is a passion for lifelong learning. You need to be eager to learn and you need to do it for a lifetime. You also need to experiment with new things. One way to do that is by having side projects.

I’m still working on it, but I want to be a good versatilist. I don’t want to be a victim of creative destruction. Instead, I want to be an initiator of it if possible.

What about you? How do you prepare yourself for creative destruction? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!