‘Disruption’ is usually viewed as the changing of a paradigm and is often accompanied by the sense that it couldn’t have been anticipated.

Yet, ask almost anyone if they expect their business to be disrupted and the answer will be ‘yes’.

This is backed up by PwC’s research. Of 1,300 respondents in our 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, 62% expressed concern about the impact of disruption in their industry, with Australian business leaders even more likely to anticipate disruptive trends than their global counterparts.

There’s a lot of ‘disruption’ coming in the next five years that we’re pretty sure of. Commonly acknowledged trends include:

  • The ageing population
  • Rising healthcare costs
  • The use of wearables
  • The sharing economy
  • Increased trade with Asia
  • A focus on predictive data
  • Social media sharing; and
  • The digital economy

Combine these trends with the Design Thinking process for innovation, which involves repeatedly testing a hypothesis and learning, and future disruptive trends should not come as a surprise, but as an opportunity.

Turning disruption into an opportunity for innovation

It is worth exploring how you can leverage the following trends when considering your business roadmap and/or a new business proposition:

1. Harness the power of the digital ecosystem

Disruption: Competitors can disrupt your traditional marketplace by using the digital ecosystem to offer new value. For example, Apple’s movement into the music retail space with iTunes, sparked a complete disruption of the music industry affecting consumers, retailers, manufacturers and many other players. Digital technology presents further opportunity for disruption – the removal of middlemen via the sharing economy (think Uber and Airbnb) and the ability to scale at a rapid pace can often be intimidating for more traditional and/or legacy driven business.

Opportunity: Consider the use of peer-to-peer services, app stores, APIs, crowdsourcing and open innovation to stay ahead of the competition.

2. Connect the dots for customers on the move

Disruption:  By 2016, driverless cars will be legal on California’s roads and the rest of the world will undoubtedly follow thereafter. This will have a significant impact on a number of different services and industries, such as, car insurance, aged care, parking, taxis, public transport, logistics, delivery and post.

Opportunity: Being able to embrace this evolution in technology will mean the ability to proactively pivot current thinking and adjust for ‘disruption’.  Consider this, motor vehicles are expensive and used by their owners for approximately 4% of the time, an opportunity ripe for a sharing economy.

3. Make the Internet of Things a reality

Disruption: By 2019 the market for the Internet of Things (IoT) will be larger than that of smartphones, PCs, tablets, connected cars and wearables combined.

Opportunity: Beyond just the individual consumer,  the IoT market is set to include applications relevant to the energy, power and utilities, automotive, industrial, healthcare and retail industries. There are opportunities to get on the front foot, by testing and learning through collecting a handful of sensors, connecting and monitoring them to get a sense of what the IOT will be like and how this will relate to an end-user experience.

4. Get your hand in to help with health

Disruption: The growth in health applications, devices and technology monitoring will continue. The value of data collected through these devices will extend from establishing historical patterns to predicting trends. The jobs and industries that will be most affected by this evolution, include doctors and carers, corporates, schools, sporting, pharmaceutical, hospitals and insurance.

Opportunity: Consider the current ecosystem of health apps and look up the top venture spending investments in this industry to help trigger or validate your ideas. Numerous opportunities exist within the health industry to deploy solutions, aggregate and monitor data to predict trends, simplify processes, discover new businesses, or lend commercial support.

5. Understand the changing demands of the future workforce

Disruption: The workforce is changing in terms of availability of skills. People now have a more diverse portfolio of careers, while training and up-skilling is becoming necessary (prompted by advancing technology). The workforce is also demanding greater flexibility.

Opportunity: Managing an agile workforce – think job sharing, greater use of freelance talent, remote working – as well as finding new ways to address company culture, employee satisfaction, diversity, stress management and wellness, represent significant opportunities.  As people and data become more remote, issues of identity, security and trust come to the fore.

As economist Joseph Schumpeter said in 1928, “Innovation is more a feat of will than intellect.”

Once you map the above predictions and their implications, the missing two ingredients are passion and action. With these, Australian businesses will be better positioned to be proactive in the global – not just the local – economy.

This article originally appeared on Smart Company on 2 March 2015.



Kate Bennett Eriksson

Kate is a former partner at PwC Australia and was its head of innovation and disruption.

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