The language of disruption

The language of disruption

The language of disruption

I’ve been wrestling recently with the language of change. Disruption and innovation are terms that have become so over-used as to lose their meaning in this accelerated time. But even without this desensitising effect, they are broad, imprecise terms that do little to describe the acute nature of the challenge that some sectors are facing, or the effort required to address those challenges.

I spent yesterday with a collection of terrifyingly bright people at Accenture’s Dublin innovation centre, The Dock. When I say terrifyingly bright, I mean people with decades of academic and commercial experience with AI, people who left prestigious academic institutions to tackle more practical challenges.

I’m glad to say that despite their intelligence, they too wrestle with the language of change. But I picked up a few nuggets that I found useful. I thought you might too.

Compressive Disruption

One, from Accenture Digital’s MD Arabel Bailey, was the idea of ‘compressive disruption’. This neatly describes to me the effect of increased competition that technology enables by lowering barriers to entry into markets. Many companies are finding shards of their profitable business shaved off by new entrants, or seeing non-traditional competitors start to squeeze their margins, coming in from other countries or adjacent industries. That sense of compression seems to neatly sum up the effect this has on a business, boxing in their opportunities.

Above and below

The other was from Aidan Quilligan, global leader of Accenture’s ‘Industry X.0’ practice. He neatly broke innovation down into ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’, in terminology that will be familiar to any marketer. In this case, below the line innovation is about addressing the cost base. Above the line innovation drives new revenue streams.

Most people are focused on below the line activity — at least initially. In an ideal world, resources released by this investment are redirected into above the line innovation. Though that might depend how much work you do below the line, and whether you do it fast enough.

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Futurism series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Futurism page.

Tom Cheesewright

Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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