The technological buzzword “disruption” is used to describe processes or systems that are different to normal conventions.
Many companies such as Uber are described as “disruptive” due to the challenge it threw down to normal taxi services.
Start-up tech companies are now promising “disruptive” products and even office space layouts being called “disruptive”, with disruptive processes challenging the status quo as not necessarily being the ‘right’ way to do things.
I for one, always love a challenge, with disruption comes frustration but it also injects a new way of thinking, a new thought process, and that is not a bad thing.
To some extreme, I would even consider some of my colleagues, friends and family a “disruptive” force, causing me to ever question my own processes.
However, is there a point where “disruptive” is just plainly destructive?
A recent article by David Robinson who initially was investigating Airbnb’s racism found himself instead looking at another issue, displacement caused by disruption.
Robinson soon realised that his Airbnb purchase was one of the main reasons that rents in the area were rising to such ridiculous heights that families were being pushed out of their homes to service the demand for Airbnb users.
A disruptive innovation is generally supposed to create a new market and value network, but at what cost does disruption bring?
Netflix has spawned series of original stories that has captured and enthralled audiences (myself included).
But is at the cost of local film and media? Will audiences be restricted to those films who are “popular” rather than varied?
What are my chances of seeing a series of local Australian or local New Zealand shows on Netflix, let alone a Netflix original based in either of those countries?
Alibaba and Amazon are another two great disruptive forces that have now become the internet’s largest malls.
Yet while the increase of demand at global proportions can be healthy for an economy, the surge of demand for cheap products has meant a relaxed viewpoint of caring where those products are coming from, resulting in an increase of child labour to meet demand, forced labour conditions and a common willingness amongst the western world to play blissfully ignorant.
In July this year, India made an amendment to its child labor policy prohibiting children under 14 from working.
A shocking start from the country who according to Unicef currently have 10.2 million children working in its factories.
Clothing and electronics are two of the top 10 exports of India and is one of Alibaba’s largest providers, not to mention home to the largest brands known in the Western world who are literally starting factories within the country in order to enter the market.
Dating disruptor Tinder has even had unforseen costs at the expense of public health, such as its increase of sexually transmitted diseases with some countries seeing a 33% rise in Syphilis.
So great was the effect, that Tinder had to place an STD testing locator into its application.
While this is not an article anti-disruption or anti-globalization for that matter, it is hoping to serve a word of caution in regards to “disruptive” business.
While it may be a brilliant solution solving issues we may never know we had, the after effects of such solutions may not always be so fantastic or as beneficial as we want to believe.
The age old mantra of question everything should apply also to those who claim they are questioning everything through disruption.
Image of 13 year old Sobuj works in a Bangladesh textile factory in conditions of extreme heat and noise. For this he earns about 1200 Taka a month $20 AU/$21 NZD or 66c a day.