Friday, April 19, 2013

“Big Bang” vs. Evolutionary – Same Disruptions, Different Viewpoint.

Check out the May 2013 print edition of the Harvard Business Review. Some of my thoughts are carried in the "Interaction" section on Pg 21.

A more detailed version of what my thoughts on the issue are:

“Big Bang” vs. Evolutionary – Same Disruptions, Different Viewpoint.

Apropos of Big-Bang Disruption (March 2013) by Larry Downes and Paul F. Nunes (Harvard Business Review, March 2013), while I agree with the general premise of the potential cataclysmic effects of Disruptions, I disagree with the authors’ premise that “You can't see big-bang disruption coming (until it's too late).You can't stop it. You can't overcome it."

The authors have highlighted several Big Bang Disruptions in the article, however almost all leverage a single platform : the Smartphone. The disruptors in my opinion are not the parking app or GPS app or payment app but the open, adaptive, secure platform called Smartphone (what I will call a “Platform Disruptor”) which has made all the other disruptors possible.

This may have a bearing on how established players react to and prepare for disruptions. They need to be on the lookout for such "Platform Disruptors" and run some What-if scenarios even if their own product/service does not appear to be directly impacted by the disruptor. e.g. say medical device manufacturers with such an analysis can figure out potential disruptions that may arise in their area due to potential remote medicine, monitoring body functions, medical database storage etc. capabilities of smartphones.

Will they be figure out all the possible disruptions, perhaps not but they would definitely be in a better shape than if they do not do the exercise at all.

Also, the Platform Disruptions are generally evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Smartphones, Big Data, Automobiles etc. none appeared in a Big Bang. Some of the downstream disruptors which these “Platform Disruptors” spawned may appear to emerge in a Big Bang. The pace of these Platform Disruption evolution is slow enough to be monitored by and reacted to by established players. But unfortunately by focusing on the downstream disruptors and failing to recognize these Platform Disruptors, companies are missing the woods for the trees.

And organizations do react knowingly or unknowingly to these Evolutionary Platform Disruptions. Case in point is how, many universities have reacted to the evolution of online distance education by making more of their own content available on the same platform. This way they have got co-opted into the evolution process and would not have to react to it ala Big Bang disruptors the articles' authors indicated.

So this one will be one disruption which will not be a Big Bang Disruption for them.

I would hypothesize that most Disruptions can be prevented from having a Big Bang effect by smart companies by:

- early identification of emerging trends

- what-if /SWOT analysis to identify impact on existing business

- identify opportunities to leverage the emerging trend

- get "co-opted" into the evolution process

- ride the evolutionary wave and reap the benefits.

Companies which do not do so will feel the impact of what was actually an evolutionary process as if it was a "Big Bang". Guys who see an oncoming bus and prepare for it can run alongside it a bit and then board it ; guys who are oblivious will be "hit by a bus".

So that’s why I view most disruptions as evolutionary rather than Big Bang and recommend that organizations prepare for them that way. For each of the companies that have been highlighted as being affected by the Big Bang disruption there will be countless others who would have thrived from the same disruption.

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