“Sometimes the solution is to rebuild your house. Sometimes, it’s to set your house on fire.”


“The future is not just about inventing disruptive technology; it is about reimagining human experiences.”

Mike Walsh


Business is infamous for doing the bare minimum to change and saying they have done something big. There are more Frankenstein businesses, business that have plugged in, bolted on and rewired things, than any other business shape in the universe. I get incredibly annoyed with business mostly because I do not know one business NOT interested in progress, innovation and improvement and yet they increasingly adopt things in the name of those things that, for all practical purposes, don’t really do shit to improve the model. I could argue that while intentions are good the attempts are almost all buried under ROI, measurement and some impractical ways of judging the isolated choice (but that’s a different piece for a different day). Sometimes we forget technology, or whatever ‘thing’ we are injecting into the business, is a means to an end & the end is more important than the means. And while I understand what I am discussing is “investment” and wasting investment is a big problem in the world we live in, it doesn’t mean we necessarily have to know what the goal is for every step we take. Sometimes we do things that are not directly connected and, yet, are still significant. Business, if we are honest, is a gambler’s game.

Which leads me to disruption.

Disruption, one of the most bastardized words & concepts today, occurs by rearranging the conventional status quo, in the box, in unconventional ways so people benefit. The truth is that constraints drive imagination to work toward the meaningful, not the meaningless. In my mind … things like the elements are innovations which I like to call ‘portals to discovery.” They are the incredibly small discoveries which enable huge discoveries.

I admit. I struggle to find big disruptive fires, more typically we find, well, a campfire has become a ‘fire’ and it is burning some shit down. All revolutions, disruptions, seem to accelerate out of a blob of mistrials, missteps, overlooked innovations poorly articulated up to that point or conventional which has been plodding along. Culture often eventually just embraces an idea. You always have an opportunity to disrupt the systems – the systems of society and culture. But you cannot disrupt a system while you contribute to it. you have to choose contributing or disrupting.”

Which leads me to rebuilding or setting fire.

Business is inevitably about people, not things. Which leads me to suggest business is about campfires. What I mean by that is if you look around your business you will see people gathering around campfires. Metaphorically this means some people gather around things for some reason – to listen to a story, to be with likeminded people, to do something that keeps them ‘warm.’ The reasons are many, not one.

The dynamics of an organization revolve around groups and individuals and campfires (or fires in general). The functions of these little campfires span, shared values, common assumptions, shared goals, permitting smaller group agendas to contribute to both individual interests and collective good. But fires are fires and while they can be fostered separately, if there is a spread in one place, we can expect to see it manifested elsewhere (sometimes in unexpected ways). We are all part of a group WITHIN the group in a system and any significant improvement cannot be solved in isolation. I would argue sincerely improving any business is playing with fire and you either set the fire or learn to rebuild from a fire made of its own making (which is usually a campfire within your system that has just grown out of control for a variety of reasons).


Every organization must be prepared to abandon everything it does to survive in the future.”

Peter Drucker in 1999

Which leads me to why burning shit down is a good thing.

My favorite example of burning shit down is Moscow and Napoleon. But the truth is most businesses see fire as dangerous, a failure in some way, and it is rarely fostered and more often squelched. Fires, in many cases, is simply a reflection of a failure in the system, but this type of failure is the system unable to handle an emergent opportunity, or innovation, or whatever is frying the system as it tries to rebuild and gain some momentum for this ‘new thing’ that doesn’t fit within the status quo. This type of failure should actually be viewed with joy by business people, not a failure. It is proof that uncertainty is our constant companion and friend and we can discard the illusion that some best practice, some process, some tried & true system, is what will sustain us in the future. embracing having shit burn down means, in some way, we are freed from the false expectations that if we were only smart enough, had some specific experience, knew some management ‘myth’, we would have been able to build something fireproof. That’s silly. You either embrace shit being burned down or you will get burned. To be clear. This does not mean a lack of direction just that we should learn to respect uncertainty and randomness and some of the gambler’s game that always exists in business and that fire can actually clear the way. This isn’t disruption. This isn’t any nonsensical word. It is simply, well, reimagining human experiences as Mike Walsh noted upfront. Like gathering around campfires and such. Ponder.

Written by Bruce