What is Digital Disruption: Definition, Meaning, Examples

Disruption, as such, is something that can be considered a hurdle in achieving your goal or completing your tasks. There can be many examples of disruption but the easiest one to relate could be some Windows Update that makes you restart your machine when you are middle of completing a report. Or if the Internet goes down while watching something on YouTube or Netflix, it is a disruption. These are general disruptions and not necessarily a problem for you. Another simple example of disruption is that you are on your way to a meeting and the car breaks down. It is a disruption. But it is not Digital Disruption.

A Digital Disruption is digital, that comes up to threaten your personal and business goals. The above were examples of simple disruptions. They are not digital disruptions. This post aims to give you a clear meaning of Digital Disruption and provides some examples of Digital Disruption. There is an additional section on Digital Disruption vs Disruptive Technologies as many people mix up both the terms.

Digital Disruption

Digital Disruption – Definition and Meaning

For it to be a digital disruption, it has to meet the following qualities:

  1. It has to be a disruption – that is, a threat to your personal or business goals in short or long term
  2. It has to be something digital – for example, something related to Internet of Things, some mobile app, a new technology, or anything related to the evergreen digital evolution

A digital evolution that arises in due course of daily life that threatens to delay, obstruct or destroy your personal or business goals is called a digital disruption.

Examples of Digital Disruptions

Uber Disruption

The simplest example I can think of right now is the disruption created by cab companies like Uber to private fleets of taxis. The regular taxis relied on hand signals while plying empty on roads – or simply waiting at a taxi stand for a passenger to turn up. With Uber coming up with an easy to use mobile app to book cabs, there has been a huge digital disruption to regular taxis.

What is the digital disruption in this case? A digital app has come up to eat into the customer base of regular taxis that still wait at taxi stands or roam on roads to pick up passengers. The customers instead of waiting for a taxi at roadside or walking to the nearest taxi stand, now use the Uber mobile app to book a cab that picks them up right from they are.

What could be the solution to Uber disruption? The taxi companies have to change their style of functioning. They have to move forward and embrace the technique of Uber or provide even better techniques. They may unite – like they did in Mumbai (India) – and come up with a competitor app for booking cabs. If curious, the app for booking normal yellow/black taxis in Bombay is named 9211.

There may be better solutions to the digital disruption caused by Uber and Ola. You just need to brainstorm on the issue to find it out.

Netflix Disruption

Likewise, another example of digital disruption is the way Netflix is eating into the profits of CBS. Until few years ago, people could watch shows etc only on television sets. These shows etc were broadcasted to their TV sets by CBS, NBC, and ABS. Since there were only these three, they could charge higher advertisement rates and higher subscription rates. With the entry of Netflix and likes, the mode of delivery of videos has changed.

Netflix is a digital disruption to CBS.

You can simply subscribe to Netflix for a small sum, choose the video you wish to watch and that’s it. The video will be streamed to your computer or you can use a dongle to stream it to your television. This practice has hurt CBS, ABS and NBC badly. They don’t have the monopoly anymore. What’s more, their subscribers are shifting to webcasting companies as the latter offers on-demand video delivery where they can choose the shows they wish to watch. Plenty of other options offered by – for example, Netflix – has not only reduced ABS’ subscriber base, they have more competition and hence can’t charge high for advertisements. Thus the revenue has been affected badly.

What is the solution here? To counter the digital disruption caused by likes of Netflix to ABS, CBS and NBC etc, the broadcasting companies have to provide similar options to their subscribers so that they stick to them. They’ll have to provide web delivery, video-on-demand and similar options so that they can compete with the net based delivery services like Netflix.

These examples of digital disruption should help you understand the meaning of digital disruption in all terms. I’ll come up with another article shortly that tells you what all digital technologies could be digital disruptions to you in the recent future.

Digital Disruption vs Disruptive Technology

The term Digital Disruption is often confused with Disruptive Technology. Digital disruption is different from the term disruptive technology. Coming to digital disruptions vs disruptive technology, the former is just a disruption caused by technological evolution affecting certain business types while the latter is a complete revolutionary technology that changes the way people work – forever. Thus, the effect of disruptive technology is not just a few entities or a sector but a huge base.

In both the above examples of digital disruption, they affect a particular segment of market. Following example of disruptive technology will tell you how it is different and more dangerous than digital disruption.

The strongest example of disruptive technology was invention of PC. It was not simply a digital disruption but a disruptive technology that changed – forever – the way people work – across all market sectors.

While Netflix example (digital disruption) affects only the entertainment sector as of now, the PC (disruptive technology) changed the style of work in all sectors of the economy. Other examples of disruptive technology are Email (replaced conversation style from paper to electronic) and smartphones (killed traditional phone business). Another example is while smartphones are digital disruption technology, apps like WhatsApp are digital disruptions to phone carriers as these apps provide calling and texting at much lower costs – thereby cutting into their market segment significantly.

In short, the digital disruption may be considered an obstacle that can be eliminated by changing few processes of a business. While disruptive technology causes people to overhaul their businesses completely or close down.

In a few days, we will take a look at some of the top technologies that will cause Digital Disruption to your business.

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN

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