How our 2015 book on disruptive forces set sail again

In a tradition that dates back two hundred years, the US Navy creates an annual reading list, outfitting ships with a library of sorts, to help train and inspire sailors. It’s part of the Navy’s ongoing mission to be a learning organization, one that applies lessons from the past and insights from today’s world to develop leadership and resilience. Its motto? Read well to lead well.

This year, No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Forces Breaking all the Trends, published in 2015 by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) directors James Manyika and Jonathan Woetzel, and alum Richard Dobbs, was named to the list of 53 books. It is one of four books in the list’s Capabilities Capstone section.

“It was an absolutely unexpected, very pleasant surprise to be part of this 200-year history,” says James, “and very flattering particularly given some of the other books.”

No Ordinary Disruption authors
Richard Dobbs, McKinsey alum; James Manyika, MGI chairman and senior partner; Jonathan Woetzel, MGI director and senior partner.
No Ordinary Disruption authors

No Ordinary Disruption explores the overriding effect on the world of newly emerging markets, an aging population, the relentless rate of technology innovation, and ever-changing flows of trade, capital, and people. The book offers thoughtful data analyses and arresting facts to convince readers that their assumptions about the way forward, in both business and everyday life, may need to be reset.

Written in a pre-COVID world, the book’s four trends and their impacts still resonate, according to James. “If we have any lessons it is that these massive disruptions have an impact that is far more multifaceted than we anticipated at the time, playing out in labor markets, the economy, competition and value creation, social inequality, geopolitics, and our everyday lives,” he observes. “If anything, we underestimated the impact of the 12+ technology disruptions that we highlighted in the book; a positive example would be the bio revolution, which proved to be incredibly valuable in the COVID era, accelerating the development of the vaccines.”

We still know what you’re reading this summer

We still know what you’re reading this summer

McKinsey’s annual reading list is back for 2021.

The evolution of global flows has also had an outsize influence on economies and companies. As digitization became commonplace, leaders in both the public and private sectors around the world strategized to develop greater resilience and flex in their newly digitized value chains so they could secure and deliver essential medicines, equipment, food, and basic consumer goods.

“If one trend has perhaps receded in conversation while continuing unabated,” says James, “it is the aging in most advanced economies' populations."

No Ordinary Disruption is an enduring McKinsey on Books work on strategy. If the authors were writing the book today, what disruptive forces would it highlight? “Climate change and the corrosive effects of economic and social inequality,” says Jonathan Woetzel. “Both issues were threaded through our research on No Ordinary Disruption. Now they are the defining features of the coming era.”

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