Are we done talking disruption? - The Brightest Minds series

19 Oct 2017

  • Leadership
  • Data-driven Marketing
  • Marketing Technology

In the words of Paypal’s Elaine Herlihy, disruption has become the new digital.

“A bit like seven or so years ago when everything was ‘digital’, or ‘innovation’, today, everything is disruption,” says the marketing director of the company considered to be one of the original disruptors.

“We have to be a bit careful in case it becomes one of those phrases that are thrown around without discernment – a buzzword that doesn’t recognise the genuine meaning of what disruption actually is.”

She makes a valid point. So what exactly is disruption then if not the industry’s buzzword du jour?

“Disruption has always been about seismic change driven by the customer and the environment, often powered by technology,” Herlihy adds.

It seems you’re not about to hear any less about disruption in the coming years but according to Trisca Scott Branagan, Executive Director – Marketing, Deakin University, the focus will shift.

“My view is that the next wave of disruption for marketing teams will be through process. It's not as sexy as digital but digital has ultimately caused the need for this next wave of disruption because teams across all sectors are really grappling with how to operate given the tools and capabilities that we now have at our disposal,” she says.

Scott Branagan cites people drowning in meetings and emails as things get faster and faster. She says: “How do we adapt to that so we don't kill our people, that we get great work done and into market using all the wonderful technology that we now have? It's only possible if we operate differently.”

While disruption as we have come to know it strikes fear into the hearts of many in traditional or legacy industries, this is the sort of disruption many businesses are likely to welcome with open arms.

Both Herlihy and Scott Branagan work in industries that continue to face major disruption. From Paypal in the finance sector with the onslaught of fintechs and startups to the education sector which is impacted by the changing nature of government and the rise of automation affecting future work forces. It comes as little surprise, then, that neither executive thinks we’ve heard the last of disruption.

“This is just the next wave,” says Scott Branagan. “We have to sort process out before we are able to optimise what we've got today and prepare for the next wave.”

The next wave of disruption following process is anybody’s guess but before we get there, Herlihy suggests taking a step back. She says:

“We need to go back to what is a human need or problem that's not been solved and ask what we can do to change the experience or anticipate need rather than say, ‘Let's be disruptive’.”

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