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Jan 13, 2016

Disruption - why taxis won't exist when my 6 year old grows up

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Disruption has become the 'buzz' word for "finding a better way". Put another way, it's corporate Darwinism.

Technology is effectively dissolving barriers that once protected dominant incumbents that in turn made it difficult for new and emerging companies to compete.   Large organisations can be the engine room of the economy, they provide skills and training that is not available elsewhere however, this doesn’t guarantee that they will remain the dominant businesses in the future.   Think about Uber/Air BnB and how quickly they have emerged as significant organisations. The reality is that bureaucratic hierarchies move slowly and with this stifle innovation often resulting in preserving the status quo. I'm glad that times have changed! My prediction is that blue chip organisations may become less “sexy” as a career path in favour of dynamic and emerging organisations.

Using the example of Uber Vs taxis, the taxi administration should bear a lot of the blame. The lazy incumbent did nothing to innovate their business model or service offering given their monopolistic hold over the industry.  In actual fact, their service offering was deteriorating rather than maintaining a creditable service level.  I feel for people who have invested hard earned cash in taxi plates/ licenses only to be let down. The reality of Uber is that it's simply a better, more efficient service/ experience for the customer that also allows drivers to “opt in” easily. This “opt in” working schedule also reflects the new “on demand” paradigm of “I choose to work when I want and not for one employer from 9-5".  This is the new, preferred and quickly emerging norm. Lastly to the point in the title I honestly believe that my 6 year old daughter won’t see taxis as we do today when she is an adult, these guys are the next “Kodak”. Why resist innovation?  Did we get a better outcome when Henry Ford created the first motor vehicle?  And how much better is the iPhone versus our Nokia's and Blackberry’s!  My point is that disruption is inevitable and ultimately it means a better way forward.

My call to action is for government and the private sector to create infrastructure and policies that encourage innovative new companies and utilise the likes of R&D grants and early stage tax concessions to support emergent businesses. Governments and banks should also create innovation directed capital to invest in credible, new, start-ups further to venture capital and private equity firms.  My view is that as a rule governments currently “don’t get it”. Our governments should employ an entrepreneurial minister (a young dynamic one) to drive new ways of looking at things, challenge old paradigms, and recommend and implement frameworks to support innovation.

Our current educational system teaches conformity and generic knowledge versus innovation and finding a better way.  We should be teaching our kids about entrepreneurial thought and the execution of these ideas. Furthermore we should be teaching computer programming as part of the standard curriculum. Preparing our children for the “new future of work” is of the utmost importance as many of our current occupations will be replaced by technology in the future.

Asset-rich incumbents and longstanding businesses no longer have an impenetrable competitive advantage.  We are all on notice, however, at the end of the day it's creating a competitive landscape and ultimately when a breakthrough innovation is achieved, we all benefit. This is an exciting time for all of us and our kids have an amazingly different range of opportunities than what our parents had. As Steve Jobs said, “We believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently”. We have to embrace this sentiment and let it become part of how we think; I know my daughter Sophie will.

By Shaun McCambridge, Managing Director, Stellar Recruitment 

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