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An increasingly hot topic among all leaders in the business world, ‘digital disruption’ refers to how existing industries are affected and radically reshaped by newly emerging digital technologies, and Richard Harris from Okappy says “Why you can no longer ignore it.”

 

In many cases of digital disruption, previously established and relied-upon business models are outmoded altogether by more digitally centred business models with which they cannot compete.

The entertainment industry has perhaps most publically borne witness to this fact so far, with digital audio, text and video formats largely replacing their physical equivalents. Former household names such as Blockbuster have perished, seemingly overnight. Yet while consumers may look back fondly on their parading of isles in their local video rental, they cannot deny the superior value offered by digital platforms such as Netflix today.

The prevalence of e-markets and subscription services such as Netflix has shown us more than ever that the customer is always right. In ensuring that markets remain legitimate and profitable in an increasingly technological world, entire industries have had to be digitally transformed as to provide greater value to customers.

Now, as the rising tide of digital disruption spreads to all industries, businesses are also better equipped to offer more choice to workers as well.

With the emergence of myriad communications platforms and networked devices, more and more roles can now be carried out remotely and within more flexible working hours. In adopting technologies that automate and assist methodical processes, life is also made easier for workers as they are given additional time to focus on the more pragmatic aspects of their employment. This in turn helps to grow business.

The age of the employee is upon us.

What digital disruption means specifically to your business could depend on a number of things. Technologies are developing at an exponential rate and the old adage that the only constant in life is change has never rung truer.

Whatever the industry, however, the chances are that disruptive technologies are going to play a significant part in your future.

Artificial intelligence (AI), for instance—once confined to the realms of science fiction—can already be said to have disrupted many industries worldwide, improving processes that were previously completed through manual input alone.

For an example of AI in application, the multinational corporation Autodesk has recently pioneered the use of generative design software in brainstorming potential ideas for projects in architecture and engineering. By inputting just one design idea into the involved software, up to thousands more alternative ideas are returned for designers to peruse.

Generative design has already been used in this way to assist with the production of designer furniture and prototype vehicles, as well as Autodesk’s very own office in Toronto. This type of technology could also be hugely beneficial for PropTech and the Construction sector.

A common fear of disruptive technologies such as AI is that their introduction can only result in mass unemployment—that robots are quite literally going to steal our jobs.

However, technologies in the working world are most often used in collaboration with workers, and new technologies can in fact have the opposite effect on employment as new jobs are required for their maintenance. More importantly, in adopting technologies that improve organisational agility, further jobs are created as businesses begin to expand.

Take the emergence of Market Networks – an example of a disruptive technology-cum-business model that can allow for job creation. Market Networks are a combination of a Social Network, a Marketplace and a SaaS tool. AngelList is a market-network. It’s a social network for startups and investors. It’s a marketplace where business angels can find startups to invest in and startups can post job openings. It’s a SaaS tool that helps business angels create syndicates and startups get introduced to business angels. Another example is Okappy as a Market Network for job management.

Ultimately, a market network makes it much easier for companies to work together through streamlining communications. This creates opportunity to dramatically increase business growth – potentially creating more jobs on the way.

It seems therefore that the issue is not unemployment but rather a change in employment. To keep workers both happy and employed it is essential that employers provide appropriate education and training. Technology is there to help workers, but sometimes it may be the case that employers need to show them how.

As put by Didier Bonnet, senior Vice President of Capgemini: “the only wrong move when it comes to digital transformation is not to make any move at all”. Businesses have very little to lose in considering ways in which they can prepare for digital disruption, and the earlier that they act then the more they will have to gain.

Digital disruption is the industrial revolution with no foreseeable end. If so, surely the best thing to do is to embrace it wholeheartedly.