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When “disruptive” is a good word

My Take | February 3, 2022 | By:

by Janet Preus

When I was a teacher, the word “disruptive” was usually attached to a student who had interrupted the flow of a lesson or class activity with inappropriate behavior. With sometimes as many as 30 or more students, all trying to accomplish the same thing at the same time, one student could indeed disrupt the whole lesson. I tried to allow for individualized instruction as much as I could, but I taught high school, and the social aspects were just too important to that group. 

A disruptor wasn’t necessarily a bad kid, or even a bad student. He or she was maybe just not cool with operating the same way as everybody else. Disruptors were, however, rarely trying to find a better way to accomplish the lesson. That’s where technology disruptors are different. Disruptors in industry and particularly in technology are generally seeking to do what we do better. “But this is the way we’ve always done it” isn’t in their vocabulary. 

There is a place, to be sure, for both incremental and disruptive technologies, sometimes participating in the development of something new and significant in tandem. I hadn’t thought of it that way until I read Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar’s article, “Innovation: what, why and how,” which you will find on this site. He makes the point, as well, that a collaborative approach among various disciplines is also part of the equation that will, in time, equal success. 

We are, once again, using the pandemic to illustrate, but with the stakes so high worldwide, and the crisis ongoing, there is no better example in front of us, and we all understand the importance of working together in order to move beyond the pandemic stage of this disease. Textile products may very well figure significantly in helping us get to the we-can-live-with-this stage, but only if the research and development is supported and maintained. 

The cooperative approach has never been more critical. But given the response we’ve all witnessed (and many have participated in), I feel confident that the textile industry will indeed rise to the occasion and present us with ever more impressive tools that we can use in the fight against disease—and unwanted disruptions across the globe. 

Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at

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