Does disruption work?

I don’t like the kick & rush form of rugby, but I found yesterday’s match between England and Italy very illuminating – as did many1.

Apparently, when a player is tackled, players from both teams are supposed to create a dogpile on top of them. That’s what it looks like, anyway, only they call it a ‘ruck’. You know it’s a ruck because the referee calls “Ruck!”

But for 40 glorious minutes yesterday, the Italians refused to join in the ruck. This confused the England players no end. There was, of course, some chatter on Twitter:

How disruption works

First, you need laws. Laws of the game, of the land, whatever. Then you need a convention, ‘gentleman’s agreement’, or mutual understanding of how those laws are applied.

Then, you ignore that convention.

Italy played within the spirit as well as the terms of the laws of the game – they just didn’t do what England expected. And why should they? They’re there to win, not facilitate England’s game plan.

How disruption fails

People wise up. They do the same thing you do, only bigger and better; or they find their own ‘disruption’; or they get the laws changed.

In the second half, England didn’t wait for the “Ruck” call, they carried on playing straight after the tackle. Their game was played more quickly, it played to their strengths and the Italians couldn’t cope. Their ‘disruption’ was to not wait for the ruck, in the same way that the Italians decided not to get involved in them in the first half.

Disruption v innovation

The problem for the Italians was that they only had the not-getting-in-the-ruck tactic. They didn’t press home the advantage – creating confusion among the England players – by bringing in a new tactic for the second half. They failed to innovate.

It’s the same for Uber, Airbnb, Deliveroo and the rest. Disruption is fine if you just want to create column inches, but a sustainable business model needs a bit more long-term thinking, and understanding of how your competitors will react and how you counter that.

Crisis planning. We’ve all been there.

  1. Although it’s sad to see Eddie Jones adopt the Donald Trump tactic of being a sore winner []

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