Creative Destruction

With the death of Steve Jobs a few years ago, our world experienced the passing of arguably the most influential innovator of our time. As an entrepreneur he was driven to impact the world and as such he engaged in the very core of entrepreneurship – creative destruction. Interestingly, Karl Marx, in his Communist Manifesto (1848), offered this term as one of the key damaging features of capitalism. According to Marx, creative destruction is the process of capitalist economic development occurring out of the destruction of some prior economic order. His concern with this process was that it “devalued” current economic wealth and structure. Later, in the early 1950s, however, the respected Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter regarded it as a positive theory of innovation and progress. As such, the term gained popularity within free-market economics and more recently as the essence of entrepreneurship – creating value through innovation.

Today’s economy is clearly feeling the effects of creative destruction as did the typewriter and word processer industries in the 1970s when Steve Jobs and Bill Gates came of age while inventing a new order of technological communication in their basements. We are just now beginning to see that many of the changes we thought might be short-term due to a worldwide pandemic are going to be with us for a long time and perhaps permanently. Learning to navigate this new order will not be for the faint of heart. There will more companies that disappear and there will be jobs replaced by technology.

At the same time, this new economy offers an incredible opportunity for all of us to create the work of our dreams. As an educator, I have seen the attitudes of college students change over the past 20 years. Today they understand that they cannot expect a large corporate job or an institution to take care of their needs. Instead, they are deciding to be empowered to create their own future. The new economic order provides unimagined opportunities for our anyone who wants to integrate an entrepreneurial mindset into their work. The world needs more of us to approach over lives and our vocations as Steve Jobs did – with a focus on innovation, an eagerness to dig deep enough to understand complex issues, with confidence in our dreams and a willingness to take calculated risks.

While change is often painful, it is what makes life interesting and meaningful and in the end it is what offers each of us a standard of living our forefathers would never have believed possible. In fact, it was their vision, and most of ours, to leave the world an improved place. The attitude of the countless entrepreneurs of yesterday and today to take personal responsibility for building their own jobs and for providing a place for likeminded individuals to work is the answer to the pain we feel today. We must all embrace change and learn to create value through innovation – to be entrepreneurs – so that we can move quickly through the pain and more fully participate in the life-changing rewards of the creative destruction process.

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