Skip to main content

Disruptive or Not

Occasionally, I'm asked how I define a 'Disruptive Technology' and the answer isn't always as straight forward as one might think.

Simon Moores - Disruptive Technologies - Ritz Hotel London 2012
It's easy to say, that it's the introduction of a new technology that changes the way we do business or represents a sudden evolutionary leap forward in a social, technical or informational sense.

In the past, it was easy to point at the steam engine the electric light, the telegraph, television or the Internet and describe them as 'disruptive' without any shadow of a doubt. Today it's a little more complex for several reasons.

Take 'Twitter' for example. Is it disruptive? After all, if you look at its impact on the Arab Spring and the libel laws in the UK, it's certainly having a disruptive effect.

What about Apple's iPod, iPhone or iPad? All of these individually and in concert represent an evolutionary step forward in the computing and software industry, not least of all the iPad, which in the space of two short years is becoming rapidly ubiquitous.

Our rapidly growing universe of “Things” is being linked through wired and wireless networks to the Internet. GSMA estimates connecting 24 billion devices by 2020, while Cisco and Ericsson think we will hit 50 billion. Altogether, these networks are churning out huge volumes of data that flow to computers for analysis. When objects can both sense the environment and communicate, they become tools for understanding complexity and responding to it swiftly. And then there's the convergence between, GPS, social media and fast developments in camera technology as well as rapid advanced in nano-engineering and DNA sequencing.

This is a subject I'm thinking more deeply upon for one of my presentations at the Ritz Hotel in December but what immediately strikes me is the sudden arrival of inflection points.

In the last century the pace of advance was more dramatic but much slower and has been accelerating rapidly, almost geometrically, since the 1980's. As the digital world expands and interfaces with every aspect of life that surrounds us, it's both raw speed and code that make makes a big difference as computer's follow the inexorable path of Moore's law.

So what happens today is that we see incremental and then very sudden, swift leaps forward, as technologies converge and arrive at an inflection point. The door suddenly opens to a raft of new opportunities and applications that might never have been imagined twelve months previously. All of a sudden, a large swathe of humanity is touched by one new product or feature or another and you might pause to consider, that reportedly, last year, 24 percent of the population of Mogadishu checked into Facebook once a week.

And so that's where we are today, inflection points are starting to arrive faster than companies and governments can deal with them in a modern day equivalent of Pandora's Box. Most of these opportunities, like the arrival of 3D printers, are dazzling and exciting but a few have a darker side which can be missed among the prevailing sense of excitement, until like computer viruses, they return to bite us.

So let's be optimistic but let's also learn the lessons of the past that sudden disruptive change frequently brings unexpected consequences in the business and social ecosystem.

Popular posts from this blog

A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.



I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…

Merlins over Thanet

Marooned, temporarily at Manston this afternoon are the Merlins over Malta team on the way to the Mediterranean for a display to mark the historic Second World War defence of the island.


Charlie Brown

Unfortunately, the weather over Thanet is appalling this afternoon and the Spitfire and Hurricane can’t get airborne again until it clears, so the celebrity Battle of Britain aircraft pilots, Charlie Brown, Clive Denny and their team-mates are contemplating an evening among the fleshpots of Margate.


Clive Denny (Hurricane) & Charlie Brown (Spitfire) Pilots

I’m rather hoping the weather it will clear through though as they have to get to Jersey before dusk if possible and I have to take some photos of the Spitfire and Hurricane for Pilot Magazine and I’ve always wanted a chance to get in either aircraft!

An Interview with Charlie Brown

They just got off, squadron scramble or what? They were ready and gone in ten minutes towards the nearest patch of blue sky!

An interview with the legendary S…
Median Saleh

I mentioned in the last post, the 1981 expedition that took in Median Saleh, the ruined Nabatean city in Saudi Arabia


A temple carved from the rock from Petra's sister city.

By coincidence, one of the most important train stations on the Hejaz railway sat next to the ruins and when Lawrence of Arabia blew the line in 1917, the trains were trapped there and are still there today, gathering dust and with "Krupp" on the engine casings.


One of the trains, sitting where T.E. Lawrence left themwith Dr Paul Garnett as the passenger

Below, you can see one of the fortified train stations that Lawrence attacked along the Hejaz railway between Damascus and Medina.



More photos Medain Saleh can be found on THIS Site - Apparently you can catch a tourist bus these days, rather different from risking life and limb to cross an unfriendly Saudi Arabia twenty years ago!