The term “Disruption” is used often, as it is embedded in our contemporary vocabulary of fancy and popular management speak. It has a way of using broad terminology without being clear what we mean by it. I would like to explore this term a little as RPD is dealing with topics that many will rate as “disruptive technologies”.
Often disruptive technologies are changing the broader societal landscape in a profound but not so obvious manner.
The emergence of widely available mobile telephony for instance has changed the very rhythms of our lives. In the early years we only thought in terms of being able to make calls being “location independent”; and even that notion was not understood in its essence as I vividly recall from my days at the Strategy and BD department of a Dutch mobile telco.
I wrote about this at RPD in relation to mobile telephony in October 2013: “Remember the days the mobile phone (let alone the smartphone) was not omnipresent?”:
Effects of changes, like mobile, impacting collaborability tend to spread over time without many people being aware of it while changing habits, expectations, and ways of living and working in a very profound way. The penetration of mobile was unprecedented in that period of time[RPD: 1995-2000], the effects only started to really becoming prevalent when they were already so omnipresent that nobody noticed anymore.
It is hard to overstate the impact and significance has been, is and will be of mobile communications and how it reshapes our lives even today. Even though it has changed so many aspects of our lives and is a corner stone of the interconnected society many will just take it for granted and when asked about its impact and significance will not come up with a little more that it allows them to call or message others and visit websites etc.
A few weeks back and along the same line I wrote a blog about the “autonomous” trend towards instant payments and a supporting anecdote about the introduction of color deskjet printers some 20 years ago.
We obviously have difficulty to see the real impact and the significance of disruptive technologies. And most notably a given technology does not “live” in isolation. Other (mega) trends and factors are impacting our world as well, creating a complex iteration between them were it is not obviously clear what is cause and what is effect, while often it is both at the same moment.
We are seeing the same happening with the emergence of crypto-currencies. For the most part the prime (popular) attention for bitcoin has been the currency aspect (as in making calls in mobile telephony), but we start to slowly but surely witness that the underlying technology and concepts referenced as the “bitcoin protocol” based on a distributed ledger is the real disruptive power. Even then it is not clear how it will effect our world, within money and payments and beyond.
We will be very surprised how it will help to collaborate more effectively and efficiently and hence how we will exchange value in, say 10 years, time.
We always seem to overestimate the pace of change while underestimating the impact of it.