Book Review: Disrupt Yourself

The week before last, I participated in the “Disrupt Yourself Camp” in Hamburg, an event providing a discussion platform on why and how people need to change in light of digitalization. The event’s keynote speaker Christoph Keese, a German expert on digitalization, published a book with the same title beforehand. So in order to prepare for the event, I decided to read his book first.

The work has only been published in German so far, but I would like to review it anyway. Its title roughly translates to “Disrupt Yourself: On the adventure of having to reinvent yourself in the digital world”.

Christoph Keese: “Disrupt Yourself”

The book starts out with an account of how the author faced changes himself when his job as a journalist was challenged by digitalization and the growing influence of blogs. He then goes into the psychology of disruptors as well as people who rather deny that change is going to happen. He continues with some advice on how to prepare for change both as an individual and as a company. Finally, the book closes with an appeal for German politics to set a framework for digitalization within Germany.

First of all, I have to say that I probably wouldn’t have bought this book if I hadn’t registered for the event mentioned above. I disagree with many of the points mentioned. Most importantly, I oppose the idea that the internet in general and blogs in particular led to the destruction or at least degradation of the journalist profession. Quite on the contrary, I believe that good research and quality journalism become more and more important as the mass of information on the internet continues to grow.

While I did appreciate some of the suggested strategies to deal with change, I didn’t like how separate groups were constructed: The disruptors mean well, but will eventually make your job disappear. The employees are either lucky with the job or company they chose or will have to change to another position. And finally, the leaders have to continuously question their entire business model if they want to withstand the pressure of the disruptors. I realize these dangers are very real for many industries. But a separation in “us” (who need to change) versus “them” (who are forcing us to) seems a little too easy.

Lastly, my biggest problem was with the final chapter, in which Keese urges the German government to implement some systemic changes. Without these changes, he writes, Europe will fail to compete against China and the US in the digital age and Germany will lose its influence in the world as a consequence. As a proclaimed expert on digitalization, I cannot understand how Keese closes his book with such a lengthy complaint about what the state didn’t do. Instead, he should be urging readers to influence politics in a way that will improve the situation.

All in all, I can only give two of five possible stars to this book. I feel like the author has uncovered many very interesting issues. However, he fails to make the right conclusions and instead reverts to the German favorite of complaining and blaiming someone else.

Overall rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

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