At its peak, Kodak employed over 140,000 people, while Instagram today employs only 13 people – Jaron Lanier
Not so long ago, there were businesses thriving by making / selling radios, cameras, alarm clocks, calculators, cassette players, compass, GPS, pocket dictionaries, atlas map, video recorders or … but today you can replace ALL that by one device – the smartphone. – Christopher Mims
There is however a converse note. Firstly, consider yourself in the Kodak age. You just captured an amazing moment on your Kodak film and you wish to share that picture with your relative or friend who lives in another country. Try, just try to imagine the process. Again, Imagine how many of such virtuous desires went unfulfilled, at that time.
Still another converse note, imagine the possibilities that the smartphone brings to its users. The extent of the reach of the smartphone era can be easily visualised if you imagine yourself having to carry all Those gadgets with you all day! It borders close to incredible if we consider what is possible today with a single device compared to what we could do or how we would have done these same things, a couple of years ago.
These two simple but classic scenarios typifies what I term as the wickedness and empowerment nature of the Information Technology and Disruptive Innovation Combination (IT & DI Combo).
I first came across the term wicked problems in a consortium foresight in Australia as part of the 6th ISPIM Symposium in Melbourne. The more I listened to the discussion of wicked problems, the more I could see how closely related the concept is with the disruptive innovation phenomenon. Wicked problems as described by Head (2008) are problems that are assembles of complex, uncertain and divergent problems all at once. Disruptive Innovations are on a similar pedestal as they introduce dilemmas that are of a complex nature to organisations facing them. They give rise to a treacherous uncertainty that makes decision making a cumbersome headache for managers. Furthermore, they introduce divergent metrics that are tangential and many-a-times at direct conflict with the performance measures with which an organization has built its success in the past.
Information Technology on the other hand has evolved to be a pervasive technology. It has become so ubiquitous That at every turn we can almost always identify the presence of IT in some sense. From the bedroom – to the kitchen – to the car – to the office to the … IT is seemingly present. This pervasiveness comes with both +ve and -ve social and economic implications. Now however, these implications are further amplified when these attributes of IT Innovations lends themselves as a platform for disruptive innovation. Whenever this occurs, a formidable partnership is usually introduced to the world which not only touches individuals or Organizations but possesses the potentials to span across nations.
The impact of the IT and DI combo is not necessarily only wicked or disruptive. Infact, this combo can as well be (and have indeed been) empowering – albeit to a relative audience to the disrupted. There are loads of literature, blogs, news articles and … about the disruptive axis. In the next blog post in this series, we would be examining several known IT disruptions from the perspective of their wicked nature but with more emphasis on the empowering capability of this combo.
In the mean time here are two open questions: What advances in IT comes to your mind as disruptive? Can you identify one that has also been empowering or not empowering?
Image: Kuku Dance (Malgorzata Korenkiewicz and Boguslaw Zen) Arts Meet Ice, Helsinki 2014