First, let’s decide what “disruption” really means. I like this definition from Wikipedia:
In business, a disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market-leading firms, products, and alliances.
Not all innovations are disruptive, even if they are revolutionary. For example, the first automobiles in the late 19th century were not a disruptive innovation, because early automobiles were expensive luxury items that did not disrupt the market for horse-drawn vehicles. The market for transportation essentially remained intact until the debut of the lower-priced Ford Model T in 1908. The mass-produced automobile was a disruptive innovation, because it changed the transportation market, whereas the first thirty years of automobiles did not.
Disruptive innovations tend to be produced by outsiders and entrepreneurs in startups, rather than existing market-leading companies. The business environment of market leaders does not allow them to pursue disruptive innovations when they first arise, because they are not profitable enough at first and because their development can take scarce resources away from sustaining innovations (which are needed to compete against current competition). A disruptive process can take longer to develop than by the conventional approach and the risk associated to it is higher than the other more incremental or evolutionary forms of innovations, but once it is deployed in the market, it achieves a much faster penetration and higher degree of impact on the established markets.
I put this all in because its important to understand about what we are talking. This definition describes autonomous vehicles to a “t”. Expensive, long to develop, high risk, but once deployed, high impact.
What are our disruptive innovations at work today? What is changing our market? What is having a ‘high impact’ on the market and causing disruption?
I guess you could say that smart parking meters that take credit cards could be disruptive, but are they? What did they disrupt? They allowed cities to raise prices beyond what a quarter based meter could accept. So far so good. But a true disruption? My guess is that cities would have figured out how to collect more money? They are good at that.
What about pay by cell? This could disrupt the entire way we collect money on street? No more meters. And entire industry (parking meters of all types) is history. But for whatever reason, with a couple of exceptions, I’m told by those who know that only about 5% of on street revenue is collected through pay by cell. What’s that all about? I’m sure there are cultural reasons, but disruption? I don’t think so.
What technology has truly disrupted our market? Maybe I’m missing something but most technology we see whether it be PARCS, on street collections, and citation management have mostly automated what we were doing before. Faster, easier, better. But disruption? Not really.
Even technologies like license plate recognition that replaces AVI or card access merely speeds up the entry process and provides better customer service. No disruption there.
Help me all you disruptors out there. Write in and educate me. Show me some disruption.