The dynamics of disruption

The ceaseless drive to create new technologies that improve human living and deliver solutions to previously overlooked customer needs is disrupting the commercial status quo like never before. Indeed disruptive inventions, and the business models they inspire, may be “the new normal.”

Disruptive technologies create a dynamic impact because they redefine the demand and supply equation – with the customer placed at the center. Entire new industries are evolving within existing ones, and positioning for the future means preemptively building new capabilities, reinventing successful business models and reallocating resources to optimize new opportunities.

While high-profile global disruptors range from Airbnb to Tesla and low-cost airlines like Ryanair, WestJet and AirAsia to Bitcoin, tech-entrepreneurs are devising new applications in every sector from retailing to robotics and nanotechnology to materials science that will impact almost every route-to-market, both within Asian nations and across borders.

Technology is empowering disruptive change. On-demand ride-hailing apps like Uber are revolutionizing urban transport. In Asia, fast-growing rivals include Grab in South East Asia, which has announced an app-based partnership with Lyft in the US and a new GrabHitch car-pooling service for commuters in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and China’s Didi Chuxing, which counts Apple as an investor and plans to merge with Uber in China. An alternative take on ride-hailing is thriving in Jakarta, where Go-Jek – which recently raised USD 550 million in a funding round – specializes in passenger trips by motorbike through the city’s notorious traffic bottlenecks. In Singapore, the world’s self-driving taxis were launched on a pilot basis in August 2016.

In future, Blockchain technologies offer the possibility of secure, optimized biometric passport and cashless payment systems for everything from diamond trading to mineral procurement. Artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing advanced robotics and drone delivery innovations may transform warehousing, logistics and distribution. Quantum computing and the Internet of Things could radically alter the ways in which technology, human beings and businesses interact – and the daily lifestyles that we lead. 

Already artificial intelligence is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that translate or invest. Impressive progress has been made in AI in recent years, driven by exponential increases in computing power and by the availability of vast amounts of data, from software used to discover new drugs to algorithms used to predict our cultural interests,

Klaus Schwab, Founder of the World Economic Forum, The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond.

Some sectors, such as energy, travel and banking have already been so heavily disrupted by technological innovations that today’s successful business models are barely recognisable from a decade ago. Once lauded innovations, such as digital cameras, dial-up internet and fixed-line telephones, evoke a distant era, while online streaming and plug-in network applications are usurping satellite-delivered television, movies and media.

3D printing uses a computer-aided digital model to create manufactured items, replacement parts and marketing samples. Because items are created “on demand,” 3D printing reduces cost and time in the production cycle and removes the need to hold large inventory stocks. 

It is widely expected that buildings and human organs could soon be 3D printed, and a panel at the 2016 World Economic Forum Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China, even discussed the possibility of 3D printed drugs being “manufactured” and consumed by patients at home.

3D printing is changing trade and production flows. It also changes who participates in trade and production. It changes the production process by removing the need for intermediary goods beyond the ‘ink’ and by allowing manufacturing to be spread out and move closer to consumers.

Trade Regulation in a 3D Printed World, Kommerskollegium, Swedish National Board of Trade, 2016