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Disruption, what disruption?


Yesterday was the first day of adjudication for the CIO.co.uk 2015 CIO100 – the celebration of the best business technology leadership talent the UK has to offer. I’ve been very privileged to have been asked to join this year’s judging panel, and it was a solid few hours of debate as we went through some of the more notable applications.

Nominees have been asked to complete a questionnaire as part of their submission, and one question provoked some interesting responses – namely,

Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology oriented start-ups?

Maybe I’m spending too much time thinking about such stuff, but I find it really difficult to think of an industry in which a technology leader could be answering that question in the negative, and not be open to accusation that they are sleeping on the job. Sure, not every industry might be facing the full-on force of being Amazoned right now, but even in staid or slow-moving industries at least the tech leadership should surely be looking outside and spotting where the raiders are coming from? There are a million geeks out there trying to spot the markets that have complacent incumbents thinking that it won’t happen to them.

Being dismissive of potentially disruptive threats is one of the core tenets of the Innovator’s Dilemma. Like the way the railroads didn’t see aeroplanes as an existential threat because they weren’t, well, railroads. Or the way in which Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer dismissed the threat of the iPhone essentially because it wasn’t a PC (and wasn’t a phone)?

If the technologists in an organisation can’t call out potential threats from new entrants into their company’s market, or threats of service or product substitution, well, I wonder who the heck will…


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