For the last 18 months, the business world has predominantly echoed with the sound of one word... disruption. If your business is not disrupting the traditional models of your sector or the established status quo, then you and your business are living on borrowed time.
Historically, one of the key conversations around the subjects of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity was that even companies, who are known for being the greatest innovators do not continually create 'new' products. The typical example is Apple.
Many commentators have rightfully remarked that the iPod, which revolutionised the music industry, was a derivative of an MP3 player, a product which already existed! Breakthroughs usually come in the form of incremental improvements of existing products or processes. It is very, very unusual to find something unique and truly the first of its kind.
This thought process and the source of my ideas has led me to believe that the era of disruption is, in fact, merely a natural evolution of what we have always seen, and continue to see, in the business landscape. However, this time it has the added features of a maturing population around technology and the advent of 'post-truth' world or my interpretation of this, which is the - 'emotion led world'. To me, this means disruption is not a ground-breaking change, but it can be defined as the advent of improved customer services and products, due to a better understanding of consumer emotion and available technology.
With big data now being embedded in society, companies are gaining a deeper understanding of how patterns and trends can benefit their business to supply a better service to consumers. Consumers are beginning to understand the value of their personal information and making informed decisions based on this. We are now conscious about the type of data and information we are willing to share with companies, based on the value of their offering in exchange.
Taking this societal immersion of big data and coupling it with the fact that we have more technology in our phones than was used to land Apollo on the moon, has awakened a consumer revolution. Now consumers can demand services which work for them, rather than having to adapt to the service delivered.
So, sectors are not being disrupted through a presumed massive 'shake-up', my premise is that companies are actually spotting opportunities in the marketplace and exploiting them, by utilising their advanced understanding of the technological and data landscape. This is not turning industries on their head, but rather, the disruption comes through evolution, a developing marketplace is, in fact, a challenge business has always faced. As individuals and companies are realising better business processes, we naturally result in efficiency, savings and better service.
Let me give an example, from an extremely successful company which has disrupted a mature industry, Uber. I can remember many times throughout my life when calling for a cab would mean a 40-minute wait and eventually getting a cab would mean the ride home costs more than the rest of the night put together. Surely, this was an industry which wasn't providing service levels to consumers and was thus ripe for improvement.
While Uber's modes of operations and employment, have caused a stir in the industry, I will be focussing on how it evolved a dated sector and not the moral implications of this. So, what does the industry improvement mean for the black cabs of London or minicab companies? Of course, that they need to adapt to this new order. The protests of the black cabs focussed on unfair practices and 'legitimacy' of Uber drivers. For example, if an Uber driver knows exactly where their customer is waiting for them, then the black cab driver has lost the competitive advantage of the pick-up. This creates a battle which, in the long term, cannot be won. As such, the existing players in the industry have failed to put positive spin on what a black cab offered a consumer, rather than treating the competition of Uber as an opportunity to evolve traditional business.
The 'knowledge' of a London black cabbie is unsurpassed and combining that with their ability to use bus lanes, makes for a quicker and more secure journey. The fact that black cabs are allowed to carry children without child seats makes the cab a family friendly offering, but these advantages have not been touched upon in the ongoing black cab vs Uber debate. The black cabbies have massive potential to utilise these emotional led attributes in order to combat the new competition in the market. They have neglected to focus on these advantages, as they have interpreted the idea of disruption as an overriding negative process, rendering them helpless, rather than a market led opportunity for change.
If we, as consumers, are being led by our emotions and what works best for us as individuals, then it follows that companies need to start playing to their strengths, and working out how best they can gain our emotional connection.
In my eyes, these industry changes we are witnessing are not the seismic disruptions that some industries interpret them as. They are simply businesses using the available tools in a technological driven marketplace, to improve existing business practices.
Consumers are willing to share their personal data in order to get a service that improves their lifestyle, therefore the value emotions play in this should not be undervalued. From my own perspective, I am very happy to share my location data to use Uber but am much more restrictive on sharing my data for social sites, before I can see the value it can bring to me.
I feel we are in a world where some companies are slightly out of sync with their customers and on the other hand, some are using emotion-led data to tap into exactly what consumers want. Disruption is such an indistinguishable and fluid term, meaning companies can shrug their shoulders and claim the industry is being shaken up to such an extent that they are helpless.
Consumers' emotions have led us to this stage of our evolution, this combined with technology, data and consumer understanding has meant that business is evolving, in time with the technology revolution and it will continue to do so. As entrepreneurs and businesses take advantage of changing market conditions, new opportunities for disruption are created, which ultimately deliver better service and products to consumers.
Nick Gold is managing director of Speakers Corner