Making sense of disruption

Recently, we swarmed with a group of 50 people from across EY to explore a question; what does disruption mean to them, and what should EY do in light of this disruption? To widen the group’s perspective we curated eight areas to discuss, based on what we’re hearing in the world and seeing through our work. We thought we’d share the eight on our blog. If you have one to add, we’d love you to share it as a comment at the end of this post.


1. Being Human And What That Uniquely Means

The pursuit of efficiency – growth-at-all-costs – has brought collateral damage. What would it mean for business to be more aligned to our needs as human beings?

“The most exciting breakthroughs of the 21st century will not occur because of technology but because of an expanding concept of what it means to be human.” – John Naisbitt, Futurist

“Churches are just one of many institutional casualties of the internet age… Millennials are flocking to a host of new organisations that deepen community in ways that are powerful, surprising, and perhaps even religious.” – Casper ter Kuile, Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard University

“Empathy, humility, compassion, conscience: These are the key ingredients missing in the pursuit of innovation.” – Jessica Helfand, author of ‘Solving all the Wrong Problems’

Example: Morning Gloryville host huge sober raves before work to celebrate life.


2. Collaboration + Ways of Working

Always on, overstressed and demanding ways of working are clashing with new communication tools enabling more flexible, remote working and more collaboration between individuals and between businesses. While social norms are shifting in favour of better work/life balance.

“For many, ‘it’s crazy at work’ has become their normal. At the root is an onslaught of physical and virtual real-time distractions slicing work days into a series of fleeting work moments. Tie that together with a trend of over-collaboration, plus an unhealthy obsession with growth at any cost, and you’ve got the building blocks for an anxious, crazy mess.” – Jason Fried, CEO Basecamp

“Is yours an organisation that employs people or [one that asks] what is it that you want to do and how can this organisation be a place you can do that?” – Paul Green Jr., co-founder of Morning Star

Example: Remote Year raised $12 million to combine remote work and global travel.


3. Technology Disruption – AI, automation, robots, blockchain, big data, driverless cars, distraction/dark sides

Artificial intelligence and robotics are fundamentally reinventing the workforce. Drones and driverless cars are transforming supply chains and logistics. Technology is disrupting almost everything.

“To presume that the changes in the digital arena, which we can now observe, are merely another technology boost in the sense of another ‘Industrial Revolution’ would be fatal. Instead, what is applicable is that we are confronted with substantial technological improvements that are occurring at an ever-increasing pace. The corporate world’s answer cannot be a “transformation”, but must represent a fundamental re-definition of the business model. Change is the new constant.” – Alain Veuve, MD AOE

Example: Tesla’s Gigafactory will produce batteries for significantly less cost using “economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, reduction of waste, and the simple optimisation of locating most manufacturing process under one roof.”


4. Inclusive / Vibrant Economy

Against a backdrop of rising income inequality, the idea of inclusive growth – growth that benefits everyone – is gaining traction, along with its counterpart, the idea of universal basic income – in which a government pays its citizens simply for being alive.

“The world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s population.” – Oxfam

“[Globalisation and new technology] are effectively hollowing out the middle class, the traditional engine of economic growth and social stability in western nations.” – Joe Biden, the 47th Vice President of the United States

Example: Tech innovations, like Nomanini, a mobile point-of-sale terminal that allows masses of retailers to print pre-pay voucher codes, are boosting inclusive growth in African markets.


5. Personal Development & Self Knowledge

Self learning, self knowledge and building ongoing capacities to thrive in an ever changing and uncertain world.

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” ― Robert Greene, Mastery (book)

“The real challenge is for each of us to determine where we feel we can make the most impact.” – former CEO of SeaChange International

Example: The Economist’s recent articles on the importance of ‘lifelong learning’ 


6. Worldview Disruption – political, social, economic

The world is becoming increasingly interconnected. In the wake of this globalisation, a tide of populism has swept Britain from the EU and America into the arms of Donald Trump.

“Promising people high value jobs in the future… is not enough… we have to redesign the system and begin regulating in favour of innovation.” – Paul Mason, a writer and broadcaster

“Large-scale problems don’t require large-scale solutions; they require small-scale solutions within a large-scale framework.” – David Fleming, a visionary Green thinker and one of the key whistleblowers on peak oil

Example: Undivided aims to crowdsource a million votes from people under 30 to ensure young people help to shape post-Brexit Britain, regardless of how they voted in the referendum.


7. Environmental Disruption – Living Systems / with vs Against Nature

Our changing climate is urgently demanding clean energy and rapid carbon descent.

Our economic system builds on linear principles focused on throughput, optimisation and cost-benefit efficiency. We exploit, create value, and then waste.

There is no such thing as a Fourth Industrial Revolution with nine billion thriving co-citizens in the world, if it is accomplished on linear economic principles. We need a transition to circular economic principles and practice.

“Today the number one economic threat to humanity is our inability to value nature.” – Johan Rockstom, Exec Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre

Example: On Black Friday, Patagonia donated 100% of its sales for the day – $10 million – to grassroots environmental organisations worldwide.


8. Responsibility, Ethics & Purpose in Business

The expectations of businesses is changing, both from within and outside; millennials want purpose over paychecks; radical transparency is making the invisible visible, citizens and workers are demanding responsible business practice; our planet urgently demands more sustainable and regenerative business practices.

“We need to evolve our economic model, our greed will deprive future generations of wealth.” – Paul Polman CEO Unilever

“We are overloaded daily with new discoveries, patents and inventions all promising a better life, but that better life has not been forthcoming for most.” – Allison Arieff, Writer for The New York Times

“I’ve been told that, at some of the big companies, the P.R. departments have ordered their employees to stop saying ‘We’re making the world a better place,’ specifically because we have made fun of that phrase so mercilessly. So I guess, at the very least, we’re making the world a better place by making these people stop saying they’re making the world a better place.” – Clay Tarver, a writer and producer for the HBO comedy ‘Silicon Valley’

For example: London-based artificial intelligence company, DeepMind’s ambition of saving lives by digitising NHS services.


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