Interview with Thomas F. Anglero, the Nordic CTO and Innovation Officer at Cognizant.
Early Destroyers are the people who deliberately (or subconsciously) choose to not understand, not embrace, or not adapt something new, and who (often due to their own insecurities) choose to more or less actively shut down or block Early Adopters.
I learned about the phrase “Early Destroyers” today from Thomas F. Anglero, the Nordic CTO and Innovation Officer at Cognizant. Thomas has been at the forefront of innovation for decades and published a book on AI years ago, before it was the hot topic it is today.
Early Destroyers might just be the biggest threat to innovation. They are the people who, when they do not fully understand something (like a new technology, or other change) choose to block or stop the Early Adopters. Their “ununderstanding” of something becomes a weapon.
And they are quite common.
Thomas: “It’s rare that I meet a leader who cherishes the moment of not understanding something.”
Thomas might not like the Early Destroyers but he is showing empathy for them: “Leadership is a very personal thing. It’s a reflection of who you are. So, when leaders are put in a position where they do not understand how a new technology will change everything, then it’s understandable how their insecurities are making them do what they can to make this new thing go away.”
Understandable, yes, but also regrettable. Because it ruins a lot of potential innovation.
The flawed logic of Early Destroyers goes something like this:
“a) This is new to me.
b) If something is new to me, then I do not understand it.
c) If I do not understand something there is a big chance that I might fail at it.
d) If I fail, I will be made a laughingstock.
e) So: This new thing will make me fail and I will be laughed at. It must be stopped.”
The flaw in the “logic” is that the new thing will come anyway.
The correct reaction is to say: “This new thing that I do not understand I will have to learn more about.”
Or as Thomas put it: “The best leaders use their insecurities to learn.”
But learning new things is hard for many people.
When a new change is introduced into your life you are faced with a fork in the road of your future.
a) Leave your current path and take the new path that has opened up
b) See the new path but be afraid to take it, so you stick to the old path
c) Not even see the new path and just ignore it
d) See the new path, but actively destroy that path so force yourself and others to stick to the old path.
B), C) and D) are all examples of different kinds of Early Destroyers.
Category B) is letting their fears take away their opportunities.
Category C) is letting their ignorance do the same.
And Category D) is letting their insecurities take away the opportunities for both themselves and others.
A classic example of Early Destroyers was the Catholic Church who, during the Roman Inquisition in 1615, concluded that heliocentrism was foolish, absurd, and heretical since it contradicted Holy Scripture and thus forced the Early Adopter Galileo Galilei to retract his findings of how the Earth is rotating around the sun.
Early Destroyers are everywhere still today. Beware of their tendency to stop innovations.
I asked Thomas for advice about what one can do to avoid becoming an Early Destroyer oneself.
He said: “When a new change occurs, you need to say to yourself ‘I need to understand this because otherwise I might fail. It’s that insight that is the birth of innovation. Innovation is born when you take the fork in the road’.”
To be open. To live in the now. To be observant. These are the traits of the Early Adopters.
To be closed. To live in the past. To be ignorant. These are the traits of the Early Destroyers.
Early Adopters push the human race forward. Early Destroyers hold us back.
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