Disruption – It’s Personal!

 By Shlomo Maital

 

   In the musical Hair, there is a song, The Age of Aquarius.   Today, we might sing, The Age of Disruption. Technology is disrupting virtually everything – and everyone needs to be keenly aware of how to live under continual disruption.

     A short and very partial list: Amazon disrupted bookstores, then all retail stores; Tesla’s electric vehicles disrupts GM, Ford and big dinosaur car firms; Blockbuster disrupted movies by renting DVD’s, then Netflix disrupted (bankrupted) Blockbuster by mailing DVD’s, then disrupted cable and networks with streamed creative content; Uber disrupts taxis, Coursera, EdX etc. disrupt traditional colleges, Sprite and Verizon disrupted copper phone lines, Skype disrupted phone companies, Facebook and Google disrupted advertising, especially print and TV, Internet disrupts everything, especially print magazines and newspapers.. and AI disrupts all routine tasks (e.g. airport check in, without seeing a human being before security).

Notice — virtually always, it’s small upstarts that disrupt the big giants — dinosaurs too slow and too dumb to innovate.  Often though they use their size and muscle to catch up.  Microsoft seems to have caught up to Amazon in Cloud services, despite being way way behind at first.

     It’s a good news/bad news joke. The good news is, all this disruption does create value for people, otherwise it would not be disruptive. The bad news is, disruption ruins big dinosaur companies who are also big employers. So far, however, these massive shifts (e.g. from assembly lines manned by human hands to ones without any at all) seem to create lots of jobs while destroying many – but that’s little comfort if your own personal skill suddenly becomes valueless.

     Disruption is highly personal. Be prepared to be disrupted. It will happen to everyone. Think about how, why and when. Think about what to do to prepare. Think about your personal skills and passions that fulfill two conditions: You love doing them, and are good at it; and they create value for many people, in ways that machines and algorithms cannot.

     As an educator, I feel disrupted because young people today can learn things on their own that I used to teach them. Solution: Embrace the disruption and try hard to partner with it, so that a human element is needed and creates value.

     How are you being disrupted? And how are you adapting?

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