Has the word disruption been disrupted?


If I had a dollar for every dreamy-eyed entrepreneur who strolled into our office over the past decade and proudly claimed her new business model would prove to be a disruptive technology, I’d be worth more money than Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Don Middleberg combined.

Every Zuckerberg wannabe wants to believe his model’s speed in tandem with a back-end infrastructure and algorithm that would befuddle Plato, will totally upset the existing market and make him (and his sycophantic minions overnight millionaires).

Needless to say, the probability of these seismic disruptions coming to fruition is about as likely as the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series.

But, here’s a cool development in the world of disruptive technology: the phrase itself is becoming passé. Disruptive technology has, well, been disrupted.

A just-released survey from IBM’s Institute for Business Value (or, IBM/IBV, if you prefer) says “Uberization” is the next, new thing keeping CEOs up at night.

Unlike disruption, which typically occurs within a static industry (Think: Amazon and Borders, or Peppercomm and Edelman), uberization occurs when competitors from OUTSIDE an industry invade the homeland to provide services in new and unique ways.

Fully 54 percent of the 2,500 CEOs surveyed said new, and unexpected, technology is coming from outside their industry. Linda Ban, Global C-Suite Program Director at IBM/IBV says this “….whole notion of being Uberized – where the competition is coming from a place we didn’t know about – means things are not necessarily industry-dependent anymore.” Holy ambush, Batman!

IBM’s identified a seismic sea change that, I’m not sure too many businesses grasp. Take the PR industries trade media. Please.

One recently ran a front page story entitled, “Is the agency model broken”? The traditional one most certainly is, and we’re being Uberized by players who were still in diapers when Billary ruled the Oval Office. But the smartest, and fleetest, of agencies are changing on the fly and will continue to thrive, despite the uberization threat from outside our industry.

But, here’s the rub. The traditional trade journal model is rife for uberization. All it will take is a couple of smart journalists, a visionary sales executive and a killer app to totally uberize PR journals.

When it occurs, and it will, we’ll be able to wave bye-bye to all of those costly and unnecessary awards programs. We’ll also say sayonara to content that focuses solely on the top 10 global agencies. And, we’ll be able to say hello to an uberized PR content model that is dramatically faster, far cheaper and more objective than the current crop of publications.

We’re I to team up with a Journo, sales whiz and technologist, and uberize our industry’s trades, I think I’d call my new app, PRbFree.

Uberization should be a wake-up call for companies in every business & industry. It’s not the disruptor within the industry you should fear most, it’s the one in the category you’d least expect to come in and eat your Thanksgiving turkey.

I’m taking these findings very seriously, and will never again dismiss the souvlaki guy on the corner as just another service provider. For all I know, he may be in the midst of cooking something up to Uberize the entire PR profession.

(A special note to Ted Birkhahn and his highly trumpeted Fortune/Integral survey which was among the first to quantify the fear disruption struck in the hearts of CEOs. R.I.P: Your survey’s just been uberized.)



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