The nature of disruption

I was reminded of the true nature of disruption the other day.  I was talking to someone, new to our industry, who had previously worked for a Scandinavian telecoms company.  She explained that the company had focussed on quality: the quality of the reception on the phone.  That, they believed, was what customers really wanted.  Then came along Steve Jobs with an iPhone and everyone’s perception of what customers really wanted changed.  It’s funny how things like that happen.  While you are looking one way, the disrupter, who you probably haven’t heard of, comes in from left field and steals your chicken dinner.

I’m doing another interview next week with a relocation company.  But it’s not like any relo company I’ve met before.  This one, it seems, is just an app.  I’ll tell you more next time.  But I am reminded of a meeting of relocation professionals I went to six or seven years ago.  They were talking about apps so I asked how long they thought it would be before they were all out of a job because of the world’s love affair with smartphones.  I was virtually escorted from the building for my temerity.  Even now, relo people believe that customers will always want their hands held and their foreheads mopped by an understanding, caring, real person.  I’m not so sure.  Judge the industry by today’s values and maybe they are right - imagine the mindset of a 30-something in 20 years’ time and I wouldn’t be so confident.

And that’s the problem.  The pace of change accelerates with every generation.  Throw in something like COVID-19 and the turbo charger kicks in.  Now it seems it’s no good just thinking about what’s needed today or tomorrow.  We need to work out what people really want from us and make sure we give it to them. Trouble is, they probably don’t know either.  Did we know that we wanted a phone we could watch the footie on, or use to navigate the car, before Apple gave us one? Maybe you did, but I sure didn’t.

I don’t think being in business has ever been harder than it is today and I suspect it will get even tougher.  To triumph, we need to allow our imaginations to drift. To diversify and spread our risk. Some ideas might work, some won’t.  But staying the same isn’t a realistic option.        

Steve Jordan, Editor, The Mover

January 2021: 30,989 page views