Musings On Markets

Teaching is my passion, writing gives me pleasure and fund is my playground. While I am blessed in having the ability to immerse myself in every three, my activities put me in three businesses, education, posting and financial services, that are begging to be disrupted. Actually, as disruption starts to concern the status quo in every three businesses, I’ve a front side row seat to see how they react to these changes as well as perhaps add to their discomfort. As technology and globalization disrupt one business after another, it pays to start with a straightforward question.

Why do some businesses get targeted for disruption yet others left only? Sizable financial footprint: The probability of a business being disrupted increases proportionately with the amount of money that is spent on that business. Using this template, it is easy to see why financial services (active money management, financial advisory services, corporate and business finance) and education are getting so many disruptions and just why posting offers a smaller target. Inefficient production and delivery mechanisms: A common characteristic that disrupted businesses talk about is that they are inefficiently run, and neither companies nor consumers seem happy. Individuals are unhappy because makers are non-responsive with their needs and deliver sub-standard products at superior prices, but makers appear to have little showing in surplus.

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Outdated competitive barriers and inertia: If these businesses are so big and inefficiently run, you might question what has allowed them to continue in existence for as long as they have. One of the enduring challenges that people face is explaining why disrupted businesses take such a long time to respond to disruption. Why do retailers not react faster to online retailing, generally, and Amazon, in particular? In a far more updated version, the facts that are preventing traditional cab service companies from responding better to the car-sharing services like Uber and Left? I’ll let corporate and business strategists hash out the answers to people’s questions but watching the education business respond to disruption has given me some perspective.

With apologies to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, I see disruption working its way through disrupted businesses in five stages, starting with denial and finishing with acceptance. Generally in most businesses, the initial wave of disruption usually fails, both because the disruptions do not understand the businesses that they are looking to disrupt and/or ran foul of the guidelines of the overall game (written by the establishment).

The threat of disruption scares the establishment, though it goes in regular ways to counter the disruption: by mapping out long-term programs and seeking to borrow ideas from the disruptors. Those techniques, while initiated with fanfare and backed up by resources, are generally undermined by an unwillingness on the part of those who take advantage of the status quo to give up or compromise some of their existing privileges.

The initial disruption may fail but it exposes both the weaknesses of the prevailing system and ways of getting around its defenses. Just as Napster softened up the music business for the assault of Apple’s iTunes store, the failing of MOOCs has offered valuable signs to disruptions as to what they need to do in a different way to beat universities at their game.