Zeitgeist of Now: Business disruption
by Jason Stewart (@HaveYouHeard_SA) It’s no secret that one of the key drivers of the social change we are witnessing is ‘technology’, but it’s also disrupting how we approach ‘business’.
For example, the quality or scope triangle laid out the relationship between the traditional constraints on production, ie, only two of the three variables could be prioritised at a particular moment. Briefly, if you wanted it quickly and at low cost, you sacrificed quality; if you wanted high quality and low cost, you had to be prepared to wait… and wait. It’s also the Segway into the topic for this column — business disruption, a major consideration in the zeitgeist of now.
For many years, this assisted businesses in defining themselves and how they would compete — but not today. An example of a business clearly flouting the rule contained within the triangle is Uber: it has increased the quality (convenience, aesthetic and experience) of the service and the speed of service, at often less expensive rates than traditional taxis.
Any business of scale applying the scope triangle today has a limited future.
Further, globalisation means anyone, anywhere, can compete as long as they can deliver the desired quality at the required price within the prerequisite timeframe. And here a modified scope triangle applies, with investment, time and quality as the variables. In the past, if we wanted to create high quality products, we needed to have money to invest in R&D and lots of time. The faster and shorter we went, the less quality was achieved.
That, too, has changed; the faster we go, the better we get — technology has allowed for the feedback loop to be so much shorter that we can learn so much quicker.
3D printing, for example, allows designers to produce a design immediately to test, learn and adapt. Believe it or not, General Electric now takes a week to get a new design into production, when it used to take two years, because of artificial intelligence (AI).
AI and automation technologies are fantastic tools for shaking up the scope triangle, but what we really need to do is completely rethinking our business models and designing them for the future. Forget what your industry used to do; look at what it is about to look like, and design for that.
Ah, and a few words about disruption. Disruption doesn’t look at creating better answers (that is the job of progress); disruption looks at asking better questions. Think of it this way: creating better answers creates improvements to existing solutions. Asking better questions creates new solutions to the same problem in a new way… it gives you something that no one else has thought off, or can compete with (for now).
Is the new transaction model, the one that is NOT based on money, a disruption? Yes, I’d say so.
The new transaction model between business and customer, which no one seems to acknowledge, is based on a data exchange, not money. Essentially, we ‘pay’ for incredibly useful services and products with our personal data.
In the past, monopolies were a threat because they could fix prices and ensure higher profits. In our new disrupted world, the new monopolies are either driving prices down or offering them free of charge while increasing the amount of value they provide us with and, subsequently, the amount of personal data we share.
Is this a fair exchange, your data for the free service? This largely depends on how this data will be used but the issue is that there’s very little transparency of how the data is captured, what the data is, and what it’s used for. This is where the tech companies should (and, if not, then governments and regulators must) ensure openness and fair control.
Technology has eliminated so much complexity that was involved in a task, reducing it to a few swipes, clicks or keystrokes. From launching a business online, to ordering food, to finding new music, our lives are becoming automated and more convenient. As a result, we’re becoming increasingly sensitive to any forms of friction in our lives, things that waste our time, or require too much concentration.
Brands need to constantly look at how they can disrupt their consumers’ brand experience and provide one that delivers a more-seamless, -intuitive and -integrated experience into their life. Brands which allow for friction (if not asked for) will suffer quickly, and this includes customer services, UX on websites, waiting in queues, ecommerce, etc.
Key lesson for brands
- Know that consumers are expecting better quality, and they are going to expect it cheaper and quicker than ever before. Rethink your model and brand offering to how you can deliver this for the world of 2022.
- Start taking advantage of what technology can allow your brand or your consumer to do, and start asking new questions.
- Eliminate complexity or friction for your users and target market.
- Be more open and respectful with the data you get from your audience and let them know how you use it. Consumers know there is a value exchange and will be open to the benefits that come from your brands use.
Jason Stewart is co-founder of HaveYouHeard (@HaveYouHeard_SA), a full-service agency. Zeitgeist of Now, his new column on MarkLives, is inspired by the agency’s proprietary tool developed to understand the invisible but powerful forces that influence people, products, culture and societies. If we appreciate these, he argues, we become more-effective marketers.