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Disrupt or be disrupted

By Wil Schoenmakers, PA consumer expert

As entire industries are transformed by disruptive innovations, organisations everywhere are coming to grips with the reality: disrupt or be disrupted. And although it can seem a scary new truth, the changes created by new innovations are delivering big benefits for organisations, the customers they serve, and society as a whole.

That’s why we teamed up with D/SRUPTION magazine to host the inaugural Disruption Summit Europe conference earlier this week. The event brought life to this complex and intriguing subject and gathered the leading minds together under one roof to discuss, define and debate the world of disruption.

There was one recurring, inescapable theme throughout the day: you can’t plan for or predict disruption – but you can curate all of the elements you need to innovate including creating the culture, bringing together the right people, and demonstrating strong leadership that allows for and rewards efforts to disrupt.

All of these factors centre on people and not robots, AI, cloud computing, or other disruptive technologies. During the “Breaking the Mould – 21st Century Business Models” panel, delegates agreed that ‘creativity is the new literacy that separates humans from machines.’

The overarching narrative was that you have to be able to spot, hire and retain talent who embrace and help drive disruptive innovation. But there’s no room for such creativity without the right culture and environment and, in some cases, protection from the restrictive methodologies and processes often found in larger corporate organisations. Jane Buck, Global Director of Personal Care Innovation at Unilever left the audience inspired with her advice on how to be ‘the outsider within’.

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PA's approach to Artificial Intelligence

Closing this loop is the leadership of an organisation. They aren’t necessarily innovators or creators of technology themselves but need to foster the right culture and provide the environment for innovators to thrive and disruption to prevail.

One of the highlights of the event, was a presentation from Paul Clarke, CTO at Ocado who left the audience open-mouthed and truly inspired. John’s was one of the first presentations but the buzz around it lasted all day. He told the audience that AI is in a league of its own when it comes to disruption, as it unearths knowledge that was previously hidden. He’s putting this into practice with amazing machine learning collaboration projects underway, or in his words, creating “a new breed of smartness”.

So, what’s in store? Which industry is next in line for complete disruption? What are the trends to watch? The investment panel gave some critical insight into this, after all, there’s no disruptive innovation without investment. The panel told us that the next big investment areas include gene editing, visual search, machine learning applied to diagnostics and—this being a conference about all-things digital and disruptive—cryptocurrencies. Yet perhaps the better question to ask is which industries won’t be completely disrupted by new technology? As John Straw, Co-founder of D/SRUPTION pointed out, advancements in augmented reality are set to fundamentally change the way we interact with the physical world. Now that’s disruption.

What’s your prediction?

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Find out more about our work in Technology innovation.

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