It’s a new day. You grab your smartphone, and tap for an Uber ride. Your eyes fixate on the little moving icon that will supposedly reach your estate in two minutes. It does. With your earphones plugged in, you hop into the car, get your morning jam started on Spotify, and then vanish into the mindless routine of checking your Facebook feed.
For a major portion of the population, that’s what an average day looks like. And needless to say, a slew of mobile apps have slipped comfortable into our daily routines. While they occupy a role that’s far from disruptive, the startups behind them are doing quite the opposite in the realm of business.
They are the “disruptors” – a term that’s often traced back to Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor who introduced the concept in his debut book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. In it, he writes, “First, disruptive products are simpler and cheaper; they generally promise lower margins, not greater profits. Second, disruptive technologies typically are first commercialized in emerging or insignificant markets. And third, leading firms’ most profitable customers generally don’t want, and indeed initially can’t use, products based on disruptive technologies.”
By cutting out the middleman, these newcomers are able to connect clients directly to the providers, offering services that are faster, more convenient, and less expensive. With such alternatives available to everyday consumers, many time-honoured products are being pushed towards the path of obsolescence. And it’s not just the mass market industries that are taking a hit. This breed of renegades (usually of humble origins) has sprouted in almost every industry, dominating corporate dinosaurs with their game-changing strategies, like Davids against Goliaths. To illustrate, CNBC’s list of 50 disruptors in 2016 covers 15 industries, from IT to healthcare to banking.
The future is indeed disruptive. As new and subsequent enterprises continue to adopt Uber-like business models, focused on online and mobile services, so will jobs become more digitised. Creative fields will be valorised, while physical, laborious and repetitive work will die out (or go unpaid, at least). So severe is this trend that a study published in 2016 by the World Economic Forum predicted the loss of 5.1 million jobs by 2020 in 15 major countries.
Yours could be among the 5.1 million. Even if you occupy the CEO or founding position. Like the many major firms that have rapidly gone bankrupt over the recent years, the lifespan of your company might be endangered too. This is the perfect time to rethink your company strategy, and perhaps bend your business model a little. Be the disruptor, not the disrupted. Here are 10 quick tips for your organisation to do so:
- Instead of “Uberising” your product for the sake of it, focus on fulfilling unmet customer needs within your area of activity.
- Consider whether it’s really a necessity, or just another attempt at riding the waves of some trend that will dissipate eventually.
- Aim to simplify an existing user experience. For instance, a certain service might involve needless processes on the part of the client that can be replaced by technology.
- Remember the foundation, the laws and rules of the industry, so you’ll know where things can and cannot change.
- Stay on top of tech news and breakthroughs, particularly in the mobile sphere.
- Start with baby steps, take your time to innovate, and think of this as an expansion of your offerings, rather than a replacement.
- You don’t necessarily have to abandon your current business framework.
- Though risky, you could also acquire emerging start-ups that could potentially disrupt your company.
- Embrace change, and create a flexible environment to facilitate it.
- When in doubt, ask yourself: “How can you disrupt your own company?” Then, do it before someone else does.
Whether or not you’re heading towards “Uberisation”, the big picture is to stay ahead of the game, which would be impossible if you’re stuck in stagnancy.
Are there industries that are unique enough to be immune to disruption? Given the vast range of possibilities and opportunities that lie within each sector, it is difficult to give a straight answer. For example, the insurance industry that is ‘unique’ that has seen individuals earning five figure salaries is not spared from disruption. Most recently in Japan, office workers are already being replaced with artificial intelligence.
Perhaps opaque industries, such as those that deal with the luxury and elite, would be tougher to “Uberise”. The same can be said for domains that involve immense skill and expertise from certain highly placed individuals – law enforcers, doctors, politicians, etc.
Creative fields may also be safe from “Uberisation”, although this probably applies to non-practical work for the most part. Artists, for instance, don’t fit into the Uber model as easily as interior designers. Basically, resources and amenities that can’t be commodified stay largely in the safe zone, as well as well-established brands that are also natural monopolies in their industries. Nonetheless, in an age where the idea economy is not to be underestimated, many today already cling to the belief that “no industry is immune to disruption”. It was reported a couple months ago on Harvard Business Review, that technology will soon replace many doctors, lawyers and other professionals.
Coupled with the lethal combination of constant innovation and ever-evolving consumer needs and cultural expectations, the belief of “no industry is immune to disruption” just might be true.
We should never rest on our laurels, professions need to change and adapt accordingly, or technology may just force us to.
Read our earlier article, “Robots are coming for our jobs—and that may be a good thing”.