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Successful Innovation Will Not Arrive Through Disruption

What we name things often causes greater impact than what they are

Language is a powerful thing. The way in which a thing is named can have a huge impact on how it is perceived, adopted and interacted with. Take Tesla’s ‘self-driving’ cars – though it is undoubtedly an impressive feat of engineering, the term ‘self-driving’ put many on edge, and not to mention is a lie. There needs to be a nominated driver responsible for the operation of the vehicle even while the ‘autopilot’ is on, a truer and less scary descriptor could have been termed like ‘assisted driving’. Though a less attention-grabbing descriptor, it could have caused fewer people to instantly reject the idea of them not being in control of their vehicle, and may have been warmer to the idea of this new step forward in transportation.

It seems to me that in 2017, every technology company is trying to disrupt something or another. Disruption has become a buzzword synonymous with improvement but in reality, disruption by its very nature destabilizes what existed before. The main issue with this is that most people have don’t want to have their day to day lives disrupted, and companies go to great lengths to make sure that things run smoothly for their customers. This is doubly true as government regulations are spilling into more and more industries, making change a more delicate and complex process.

Uber is often lauded as the ultimate disruptor – breaking through the established taxi industry and making life easier for all, however historically it is incorrect. Uber’s innovation was to allow for the booking of a taxi by phone – the speed of service that has become synonymous with the brand came much, much later. Had Uber attempted to roll out their current service back in 2010, it would have fallen flat, with drivers, riders and governments alike, due to the instant destabilisation of each party’s interaction with the taxi industry. The deployment of Uber until it reached its tipping point and became popular came through detailed marketing efforts to both drivers and riders, lobbying governments and many failed projects.

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