The phenomenon we call business disruption could benefit from a different name. Although it signifies a disturbance or an interruption in an industry, it’s much more than that.
The nominal definition I work with is that disruption is the “transfer of wealth in an industry from dominant incumbents to disadvantaged entrants.” It’s a convenient definition because it’s brief, it puts the emphasis on economic value and because it alludes to a reversal of fortune and the implied extraordinariness.
However, there are several nuances lost and contradictions ignored in this definition. I want to enumerate them here and now:
- Although in a disruption there is a transfer of wealth, that wealth is not necessarily conserved. An industry that undergoes a disruption often emerges larger, more productive or more influential. Disruption typically creates net growth.
- Although extraordinary and spectacular it is also very commonplace. Disruption is not rare. In fact, it rarely fails to happen. One could even say that if it does fail to happen, it’s a symptom of an industry in crisis.
- Being so common, it can be seen as a regular occurrence. But if the regularity of disruption can be considered to have a clock cycle, its frequency is increasing.
- Disruption in the literal sense implies discomfort, displacement and even destruction. But it’s necessary to the health of any economy. The analogy to biology is that death is the most important thing in life.
- Although only recently characterized and studied in cases set in the past century, the pattern is evident throughout history.
I’ve offered examples of these consequences or side-effects of disruption but I’ll emphasize once more the example I’m most familiar with. To illustrate the primary definition, the AMP index is a measure of the success of one company relative to a set of peers in the mobile phone industry. It’s the average of four market shares: mobile phone units, smartphone units, revenues and operating profits.
This chart shows the shift in AMP index values for the competitors whose data is public and which make up the vast majority of units sold:
Registration for Asymconf opened one week ago and about 42% of the available capacity has been reserved. For those who have registered and those who are considering registration, this is a brief introduction to how the event will be conducted.
The method of presentation and participation was originally designed as a teaching method. What we’re going to do is a very simplified approach of the case method first introduced in the teaching of law and later adapted to the teaching of business administration. The key difference in this method vs. the classic lecture is that there is no assumption that a right answer exists and hence that there is no greater value placed on the lecturer vis-a-vis the audience.
The event is therefore performed by three key components:
- The facilitator
- The case team
- The spectators
The diagram shows the venue and rough placement of the components (to scale and with reserved seats highlighted in green).
The facilitator’s role is similar to that of a conductor of an orchestra. It’s primarily to help the individual instruments working together but not to make the music himself.
The “music” is primarily produced by the case team. This will be a group of about 30 persons arranged in a semi-circle around the facilitator. They will “debate” a case that will be published as a blog post in advance of the event. They can put forward information, agree and disagree and generally try to uncover meaning or truth.
The case team, like an orchestra, should be diverse. They are not expected to be subject matter experts but to bring their particular expertise to a common problem. In fact, subject expertise in one member can be seen as a problem since it could discourage others from also participating.
The case team will be pre-selected from the pool of spectators and will change from case to case.
The reason we ask your area of expertise during registration is so that we can create diverse case teams, not to assign you to a team that has a particular experience.
The motivation behind Asymconf and an archaeological expedition into the ancient history of personal computing.
5by5 | The Critical Path #22: Asymconf.
I had a huge headache while doing this.
Asymconf is the Asymco experience. Live.
Attendees will be treated to an engaging, participatory experience. Using the case method, you will be guided through four probing questions pertinent in modern market analysis.
- What is disruption and how can it be harnessed? The case of mobile computing.
- What are the jobs that the entertainment industry is hired to do? The case of Hollywood.
- Is Wall Street more than good enough? The case of financial over-service.
- What are the limits of education? The case of learning and the theater.
If you would like to take part, please register your interest here.
—Horace Dediu & Indrek Vainu