Disruption


It is the breakthrough that brings the gold at the end of the rainbow to fruition. To the young start-up it can launch a small garage company into the stratosphere.  These things don’t happen that often but when they do the changes they cause can be cataclysmic .  The challenge all incumbent companies face is getting to the forefront of these changes before they happen or at least on board as they happen, otherwise they are left in the wake of the Titanic or maybe more accurately they become the Titanic and quietly sink to the bottom of the ocean.  Known through the ages as a once great ship now reduced to a rustic relic never to be seen in its infantile glory again.  In the industry we view these as disruptive technologies.  Changes that occur that create tremors across the industry.  They create excitement and challenge the business norms.  In short we call this disruption.

In today’s world I view disruption quite simply as those technologies that are changing how we interact with one another as people, that change the way in which we live and work on a daily basis.  Perhaps more efficient and maybe not for the better Who does not have a friend or perhaps a teenager today who communicates more via text then actually face to face with their friends?  Sometimes they start simple but expand as scenarios of use increase.  The simple idea of mobility has changed and continues to change the way we work and live our day-to-day lives.  They led companies to make big bets, where a year earlier they had not even had serious discussions regarding the technology they are betting on. Other times the change is dramatic such as when the Apple iPhone launched, changing mobile phones forever.

The changes at times seem generational.  Reflecting on my own life I can see the advantages.  When I was in high school having any sort of social life was paramount.  The planning that went into everything from going to a movie to meeting someone for coffee was cumbersome and quite painful as the only technology was the good old lanline phone, multiple phone calls back and forth.  Worse yet some calls were made and the phone was busy.  It was stressful for the student and annoying for the parents.  Now the ability to communicate in real-time whenever and however is simply amazing.  Mobile Phones, email, texting, Facebook and Twitter to name just the obvious candidates, have altered how our children live and interact.  It has created a certain speed of life that at times does not seem manageable.

Where do I see future disruption?  One area I think of is the death of the rectangle.  By this I mean when we look at the range of devices we consume today, whether it is a laptop, smartphone or tablet – one thing that is consistent is their shape.  They all have four corners, maybe smoothed curves, length longer than the width.  However we see our technology experience now extending beyond devices that we can hold in our hands into new areas that before seemed futuristic and distant.  It was not long ago that our technology experience was tethered by a desktop or laptop to the nearest power outlet.  With the advent of mobile tha has significantly changed how we live and interact within a short timeframe.  With the oncoming robotics revolution that is set to change again.  The creation of drones maybe will lead to little hover devices in our home.

There will be a huge upside for those companies that dare to think outside of the box, to think beyond what exists today and think about what will exist tomorrow.  Somethings we are seeing already.  The controversy we see around law enforcement and the use of video surveillance and the looming war of civil liberties and drones.  Google has received tremendous press for its wearable technology, Google Glass.  Another Google venture is into robotics and robotic vehicles.  Wether these take off as a Google venture or some one else comes into steal the show, it seems evident that these two technologies will come to pass and the winner will see huge upside in revenues.

The societal disruption will be huge.  If you take robotic vehicles they will plan efficient routes for you to take at the proper time with the least amount of difficulty.  Your time in the vehicle will be spent being more productive (or catching up on sleep).  The simple layout of the car could change from the traditional front seat back seat, as cars are designed for more of a leisure lifestyle. This can extend beyond the car into other areas of transportation, such as trains, boats and planes, not to mention the emerging market of space travel.  The only limits to where this will go is the limits we place on our imagination.

More than anything disruption is about opportunity. The entrepreneurs that make this country great are prone to risk. They are willing to take the chance to make something big. When we look at some of those “risks” they don’t seem like risks at all. When Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft they just had a vision of where this idea of a PC would lead. Sergey Brin and Larry Page were just making search more effective, when they stumbled onto a transformational business model. Steve Jobs was so dictoral in his approach, but so focused on creating a vision of personal computing that exceeded all our expectations. We dream big in our country and that is why repeatedly we change how the world lives.  We create disruption.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann August 22, 2013

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