Sunday, 1 May 2016

Sound of Disruption

It is an awe inspiring ingenuity of Man to have built ships, pyramids, steam engines and  rockets. These were the disruptions that determined how wandering nomadic tribes metamorphosized into civilized societies. Nobody heard the drumrolls when a bathtub spilled water out, a kettle jerked with boiling water, an apple fell on the ground or a kite flew in a storm. More often than not many more of such mundane, nondescript occurrences have caused disruptions of such gargantuan proportions that the civilization of the past couple of millennia is unimaginable without them.

A probable meteoric shower made the dinosaurs extinct and an atomic bomb terrorized generations. But such disruptions are few and far between. More often than not history has witnessed  disruptions tip toeing around unannounced. In the recent past a Jobs, a Gates, a Zuckerberg and  closer home a Dhirubhai Ambani or a Karsanbhai Patel went almost unnoticed in the early phase of their careers which belied the deafening disruptions they caused later. Google ran a brilliant search engine for years and Whatsapp runs to date  without having a clue about a sustainable business model. It is needless to even mention what they have left behind in their trails.

Google reminds me of one Tanmay Bakshi. Tanmay says he has invented a search engine which is better than Google because when you ask a question to Google it shows you a few million pages and expects your to look for an answer. Whereas if you ask “Tanmay”, it gives you an answer with an accuracy score. Tanmay is 12 year old Indian Canadian and may alter for good how we search online in the next few years or the next few months.

For a smug organization waiting to “hear” the sound of disruption can be a double whammy. There are two ways in which an organization can allow itself to be annihilated by missing to identify or recognize a  shy  and almost demurring  DISRUPTION. First, ignore an idea heard  at a routine  town hall meeting or presented by a bunch of employees way down in the hierarchy. For an idea not presented by a hot shot consultant and which came without  a hefty bill is really not worth pursuing at all.  If  disruptive ideas came out of the brilliant consultants’ lengthy market research reports, then somebody forgot to keep a record. Second, ignore  an event, a trend,  a recurring customer demand or a complaint as just a passing fad or too vague.

Famously ignoring the touch screen cost both Nokia and BlackBerry their very existence. iPod and now generations of iPhones have walked by the Walkman, Eastman Kodak’s photo print is but  a footprint in the  history of photography. Pagers, Fax machines, Video cassettes and Compact Discs and now even  PCs have been disrupted by newer better cheaper technologies.

There is no one silver bullet to tame this animal called disruption. What may help is to keep one’s eyes open, listen more than talk,  put ears to the ground and once your gut says this is the one go for the home run as if there is no tomorrow. And then let the drums roll.

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