The Dealmaker Magazine for Q3, which features a deep dive into the trend du jour called “disruption” along with our latest analysis of activist developments accompanied by our unique League Table of activism and Who’s Who of advisers. We couldn’t resist a bit of snark above because disruption is frankly just a rather wan synonym for what the early 20th century Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter dubbed “Creative Destruction,” which he defined as capitalism’s “essential feature.” What about the wonders of today’s technology? They’ve been part of what Schumpeter was describing all along.
That’s not to say that what’s happening now isn’t significant. But the entrenched, lazy and/or just plain incompetent victims of such destruction never see it coming. And now those in industries ranging from pharma and food and beverages to Wall Street may be blindsided by change, as our writers Chris Nolter, Bill Meagher and Steve Gelsi explain in their features, respectively, on unicorn IPOs, new media, CBD and hemp. On the other hand, those not caught off guard by disruption will take maximum advantage of it if they’re any good at what they do.
Of course, we haven’t covered the waterfront. Nowhere in these pages do we describe how companies such as Uber and Tesla are out to creatively destroy conventional means of transportation. But the same dynamic we describe here applies there as well. Note that traditional automakers like Ford, GM and Toyota aren’t sitting back; they’re investing as much in self-driving technology as Uber and Tesla, and unlike the upstarts can afford it if the technology fails to work as advertised. (Don’t we already have cruise control?) And while the newbies there are also out to bend the traditional corporate governance model to their founders’ liking, we’d remind you that Travis Kalanickis history and Elon Musk isn’t exactly a CEO’s CEO.
The larger point here is that disruption not only is not new but that it has never stopped. As Schumpeter put it, “Creative destruction refers to the incessant product and process innovation mechanism by which new production units replace outdated ones.” No, Elon, you aren’t the first or the one and only. In fact, if Musk keeps making promises he can’t keep, it’s not unimaginable that Tesla will some day become an activist target, as a look at Ron Orol’s analysis of insurgencies in the first half of the year amply demonstrates. In that case, Ron also shows us who might most likely help insurgents go after the company or come to its defense.
By Ronald Fink, Deputy Managing Editor