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February 20, 2014

Micro-Disruptions anyone?

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:46 AM

Big Bang Disruption Why tech giants must innovate or die [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctxUJK-7XFk]

We've read a lot about the merits of market disruption, and for good reason: Either disrupt the market or risk being disrupted out of business.

But how often do we think about what I like to call micro-disruption? Essentially I'm talking about how we face technological snafus that make us quite aware that we're in dire need of more innovation. That's because innovation is a never-ending process. We might be content to have a service or product on our hands that apparently needs no improvements. Not major improvements, at least.

Widespread products like the television and telephone worked pretty much the same way for decades. Only in recent years have we seen smart TVs and mobile telephones thoroughly redefine and reshape those respective markets. In both cases, individuals began, one by one, to call for improvements in those media to meet the needs of their changing lifestyles. And the market eventually caught up to their expectations and desires.

The power of the individual consumer, therefore, is an important thing to consider. Eventually those expectations add up. And at no time in human history have those expectations been able to accrue so fast as they do today.

Think of the Internet. It's such a part of our day-to-day lives that, much like the ubiquitous television or telephone, it really doesn't need improvement. Or does it?

One of my colleagues and I recently had trouble getting some emails to each other. We all get an occasional "bounce-back," but why this episode was so chilling was that neither of us got any such notices. Yet we weren't receiving the emails, either. That got me to thinking about how many other lost emails there are floating around in cyberspace, never to reach their intended destinations. How many big business deals (or, for that matter, affairs of the heart!) never went anywhere because an email or two fell through the cracks without the other party knowing about it?

My prediction is that one of the biggest innovations yet to hit the scene will be something that addresses what's left of the "Wild West" aspect of the Internet. There is an untamed, unpredictable lawlessness about the Internet that we continue to live with and operate our enterprises by. Recall that the Internet has existed for more than 45 years now. It dates back to the 1960s and was meant as a means of communications should telephony, telegraph, and print mail all be knocked out during a nuclear war. As the Cold War thawed, academics began using it as a fun way to communicate with each other. Everyone knows the story from there.

I think the time has come for a Consumer Electronics Show to unveil a new kind of Internet. One that's based less on a 1960s Cold War technology and more on communications realities of the modern day. I know that our partners in the retail, financial services, and healthcare industries would take to a newer kind of network if doing so could make their customers more secure.

To be sure, the rocket scientists (and indeed, many of them were) who first developed the Internet as a military tool in the '60s could have never imagined that a teenager sitting in his bedroom in Russia with a basic Internet account could hack into the data systems of some of the world's largest and savviest retailers. The expectations for the Internet have grown a lot in the past 45 years.

It's time for us to collectively pool our micro-disruptions with it and come up with a better version.

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