In prior blogs about Schumpeter’s Gale, you explored how the winds of technological change and creative destruction are picking up speed. By now you might take this for granted.
What might not be as evident is how profoundly these changes have already affected major, monopolistic industries. Take, for example, transportation. Back in 1937, Mayor Fiorello Laguardia (the guy whose name is on the airport) decreed that taxis shalt be licensed under a medallion system, their numbers artificially restricted to maximize owners’ profits. Hack bureaus around the world are modeled on NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to govern everything from cabs to vans to black cars to medical transport.
Yet right now, without owning a single vehicle, Uber is the world’s largest personal transportation company. Is it any wonder that French cabbies are rioting in the streets and New York has become a legislative battleground for ride sharing?
The retail sector is likewise seeing an upending of familiar order. Since the Hudson’s Bay Company and its offspring set the standard for brick-and-mortar retail, the goal has been to get big, realize economies of scale and pricing power, and keep traffic high. Even well-established giants like Amazon and Walmart follow in these footsteps with programs like Prime and ship-to-store.
Yet this April, without a single piece of its own merchandise, Alibaba has blown past Walmart to become the world’s largest retailer.
You get the idea, and bloggers like Tom Goodwin can help you explore it even further. Goodwin’s argument is that disintermediation—the breakdown of familiar pathways between producers and consumers—is altering industries as diverse as lodging, entertainment, transportation, and retail.
Before you read this, had you thought about how disintermediation will affect your vertical?
Are you confident that you now understand what these technologies and interfaces will mean to your core clientele? Odds are, if you have thought of it, you’re not sure what to do about it.
You might have asked your IT department for their thoughts on how technology can help. You might be inquiring of marketing for strategies that will reach people directly in this indirect age. You may even be pushing HR to hire talent to navigate this gale-force change.
Trouble is, that job title doesn’t even exist yet. The marketers and IT folks haven’t figured it out, either. You might not even mind, if your business is profitable at the moment. But it’s dangerous to think that what is profitable today will be relevant tomorrow, even in the very near future. History is littered with businesses that dominated their verticals, then failed to anticipate a technological change, and fell by the wayside as their competitors surged ahead. While Alibaba and good ol’ Amazon explore the abundant potential of new technology, competitors like Sears and Target are licking their wounds and trying to cover for deficiencies in strategic planning and command of technology. Meanwhile, more successful established players emphasize thinking ahead—and often get help.
When faced with such challenges, even the biggest, most forward-looking companies get help from the outside. The Big 4 consultancies commanded more than 40 percent of the $125 billion market for consulting services last year and experienced double-digit growth. Why would clients spend this kind of money? To see around corners, outsource headaches, and catch up with the torrent of creative destruction.
Whether you’re looking to the biggest consultants for help, or selecting something more personalized and tailored to your needs, don’t forget what matters: strong future vision, a strong track record and deep bench, selling solutions that actually mean something to you, competence to protect your information, and trust. With those assets to hand, you can help your IT, marketing, and HR departments figure it out—and position your business to be a winning disruptor, rather than the disrupted.