This is a fantastic article that first appeared in the New Yorker in 2014. At the time, I posted it. This is an article that I should post at least once a year.

In it, Jill Lepore demolishes the myth of “creative destruction.”

We often hear corporate reformers say that disruption is a wonderful thing, as they close beloved local public schools and replace them with charter schools run by out-of-state entrepreneurs; if that school fails, then they close it and open another and another. Isn’t disruption wonderful?

I have always thought that disruption was a concept that might be good in the corporate world, but not in the personal realm. Children crave stability. They need a stable family, a stable home, and a stable school. They need to feel protected, because they are small. Disruption is unhealthy for them.

But we are told that disruption is the way of the modern world.

Lepore says no. She tears apart Clayton Christenson’s case studies about innovation and disruption.

She writes:

Disruptive innovation as an explanation for how change happens is everywhere. Ideas that come from business schools are exceptionally well marketed. Faith in disruption is the best illustration, and the worst case, of a larger historical transformation having to do with secularization, and what happens when the invisible hand replaces the hand of God as explanation and justification. Innovation and disruption are ideas that originated in the arena of business but which have since been applied to arenas whose values and goals are remote from the values and goals of business. People aren’t disk drives. Public schools, colleges and universities, churches, museums, and many hospitals, all of which have been subjected to disruptive innovation, have revenues and expenses and infrastructures, but they aren’t industries in the same way that manufacturers of hard-disk drives or truck engines or drygoods are industries. Journalism isn’t an industry in that sense, either.

Doctors have obligations to their patients, teachers to their students, pastors to their congregations, curators to the public, and journalists to their readers—obligations that lie outside the realm of earnings, and are fundamentally different from the obligations that a business executive has to employees, partners, and investors. Historically, institutions like museums, hospitals, schools, and universities have been supported by patronage, donations made by individuals or funding from church or state. The press has generally supported itself by charging subscribers and selling advertising. (Underwriting by corporations and foundations is a funding source of more recent vintage.) Charging for admission, membership, subscriptions and, for some, earning profits are similarities these institutions have with businesses. Still, that doesn’t make them industries, which turn things into commodities and sell them for gain.

I won’t attempt to summarize the article. I will just say: Read it and enjoy.