In 1970, Alvin Toffler introduced the term “information overload” in a book called Future Shock.  Forty years ago, Toffler wrote about the impact of the accelerating rate of technological and societal change.  In a nutshell, he predicted that we humans would be left disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation”.   

This led to something called the “Law of Disruption”.  There is a technical application for this term, but it also has some applications that surface when the social framework of a family and/or a business is, in Toffler’s terms, “shattered”.  People are left disoriented when networks are changed. 

Some of the more common reactions that you may have witnessed or personally experienced include:


This is an attempt to retreat into a self-nurturing/reinforcing environment that allows us to believe that all is safe with the world.  If you’re a fan of Peanuts, you’ve probably seen Linus slip into this mode while sucking his thumb and clinging to his security blanket.  Older generations referred to this as the “Ostrich” syndrome.  It’s a good way for families and businesses to get stuck.


This involves putting on a bold front, a form of “whistling past the graveyard”, pretending that all will be well, and faking a courage they do not really have.  Even though often unsure of the outcome, the participants take a deep breath and move forward hoping for a happy ending.


This is the same as “staying the course”.   The disruption is a trend or a fad and pretty soon, everything that has worked for years will be back in demand.  All we need to do is make a tweak here and there and we will be able to ride out the storm.  A common thought that runs through the mind is “we have survived worse”.


Some believe in the Tom Peters notion that wherever there is chaos, there is great opportunity.  As a consequence, they use intuition, reason, or a combination of the two to look for ways to capitalize personally and/or financially from the disruption in what was the normal course of business.  Families and businesses that respond this way may well be on their way to increased market share in whatever the new world order happens to be.  In fact, they may even help shape what the new order looks like.

During this series, we have been talking about fairy tales and happy endings.  The Law of Disruption shows up in every fairy tale.  In folk lore, the way to the happy ending always seems to be in choosing to exploit the circumstances leading up to the disruption in the traditional societal structure or culture.  When you look at the number of business successes in the marketplace, it seems to look that way in life as well.

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