As someone who spends much of my time helping clients identify trends that have the potential to be game changers, here are the top five that I've seen gain disruptive traction in the past year:
- Driverless Cars
With GM's recent announcement that their 2017 Cadillac with be 70% autonomous, the driverless car has come into sharp focus as something that is not as far off as many had assumed. Already there are 3 states in the US where driverless cars are legal on public roads (California, Arizona and Nevada).
Beyond being a source of fascination and anxiety for some, this is a trend that has profound implications for many businesses and industries. Naturally, taxi companies are concerned but so are auto insurers. After all, if you have an accident in a driverless car, who's at fault? What makes the claim? Who takes out insurance policies? The entire basis of the lucrative auto insurance market comes into serious question when the responsibility is removed from the person behind a wheel they're not touching.
Parking station operators are nervous too and with good reason. Within a decade or two, we may never pay for parking ever again in a world where our driverless car drops us at work, returns home only to return when we are finished for the day.
Consider too the implications for freight. Mercedes Benz recently a driverless prototype truck they intend to have for sale by 2025. Australia's largest freight company Toll is already looking to take advantage of this trend.
- New Forms of Power
The recent release of Tesla's Powerwall battery units will have a massive impact on the way we use power. In a residential setting, these are expected to cut household usage of mains power by 8% per day due to load sharing throughout the day (a figure that ought to send chills up the spine of every utility provider).
In addition, Tesla's soon-to-be-released industrial PowerPak unit will change the way large organisations use power too. Already under trial in the US with Wal-Mart and Amazon, these 100kw units are set to hit the Australian market within 12 months.
- 3D printing
While 3D printing has been a source of fascination for many years, only now is it starting to show itself to be the business disruptor many believed it could be. Take for instance the 3D cosmetic printer Mink that allows users to 'print' cosmetic in any colour on the spectrum entirely cutting out the retail distribution chain. Or the construction company in China who 'printed' a 5-storey apartment block earlier this year in 24 hours. Or consider the printable motorbike which made headline in late May.
Regardless of the industry, 3D printing has the potential to be the greatest disinter mediator of our time - rending retailers, wholesales, distributors and even manufacturers themselves obsolete.
- Non-bank banks
A range of disruptive headwinds has buffeted the financial services sector in recent years. First it supermarket chains who began to apply to banking licenses and now more recently, Facebook is making noises that they want a slice of the banking pie. In March this year, the social networking giant unveiled a money-transfer feature in their Messenger App, which has the potential to significantly impact the stronghold of banks on this lucrative currency exchange market. Watch this space!
- Legislative upheaval
Despite the fact that technological disruption often gets the most attention, some of the changes that I witness impacting clients most in recent months are driven by governments not gigabytes. The raft of legislative changes affecting aged care, disability services and higher education are causing decades-old institutions to engage in a battle for survival much less relevance. The ideological move away from 'block-funding' to demand-driven funding is having widespread ramifications in the TAFE sector for instance. Whereas TAFE's role has always been to build social capital and provide learning opportunities for those who could not necessarily afford it, the emphasis on being commercially viable means many courses and colleges are being scaled back tremendously despite the intrinsic value they offer. Whether these legislative headwinds are justified or not is beside the point - shift is happening and all institutions must adapt.
Setting a brand or organisation up for enduring relevance involves a principle that every experienced surfer understands well. In order to catch the perfect wave, a good surfer knows the importance of keeping their eyes firmly on the horizon. While a wave is still forming a long way off in the distance, surfers know that this is the time to move – to paddle out and get in position. Move too late or not at all and you’ll simply get washed up as the wave crashes over you.
In much the same way, winning the battle for relevance is about anticipating, preparing for and embracing disruptive change - no matter how uncomfortable or confronting it may be.