What the Scouting movement has in common with Netflix

Our Scouts might not believe it, but it’s true. I was there.

There was actually a time in the not-too-distant past where renting a movie meant putting on shoes, getting in your car and driving to a place called Blockbuster Video.

That is, until Netflix came along.

Experts consider Netflix a recent example of disruptive innovation. That’s their term for something that challenges and eventually replaces leading companies, products or thinking.

Other examples: Wikipedia, which disrupted traditional encyclopedias, and word processors, which disrupted typewriters.

Lee Barrett, Scoutmaster of Troop 243 in Azle, Texas, has another example: the Scouting movement.

“Scouting changes the status quo, and adult leaders are the ninja disruptors who leverage the power of the Scouting program to create an environment where boys and girls become men and women,” he writes.

The disruptive innovation called Scouting

Scouting has the power to disrupt a world of helicopter parents, participation trophies and screen addiction.

Though some of the outside influences are new, Scouting’s disruptive qualities are not.

The BSA has been challenging young people to expand their minds since its founding in 1910 — 87 years before Netflix was created.

In 2016, the need for disruption is more pronounced than ever. Barrett occasionally gets emails from Scout moms who are “unhappy about decisions made on campouts or when a Scout is held accountable for his own decisions.”

He explains the reasoning behind the approach, and the parents soften.

“We expect more from our Scouts than the glassy-eyed gaze into a smartphone,” Barrett says. “We are sometimes a source of tension, because we purposely put Scouts in position where they are encouraged to lead and to make decisions for themselves and their unit.”

Why Scouting is a disruptor

Where other adults rush forward to coddle young people at the first sign of trouble, Scout leaders take a patient step back.

That’s a disruptive innovation right there: a safe environment where young people learn from failure.

“Sometimes it is an ugly process, because we allow our Scouts to make mistakes and then we pick them up and help them learn from the mistakes,” Barrett says.

Where other organizations value profits, Scouting’s bottom line is preparing young people for life.

“Our product is well-rounded young people,” Barrett writes. “Our niche specialty is leadership.”

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.