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Stealth Disruptive Technology Slammed me into Stupidity again this week…

The more I attempt to learn and embrace today’s technology the stupider I seem to become.

During university one of my favorite professors was Clayton Christensen who constantly reminded us about “The Opportunity and Threat of Disruptive Technologies”. Since then I have always been on the look-out for them but I now realize that some of the biggest game changers have encroached our lives by being subtle if not even subliminal.

I witnessed this first-hand as our nephews helped us migrate towards our new Digital Footprint. Thank goodness they have the patience and fortitude towards seniors! I accepted it all and was amazed what I really did not know about how to utilize today’s technology. I went from feeling capable and mature to stupid and lost in a blinding flash.

I am slowly embracing and learning all the nuances of today’s technology, but once I think I have it figured out they move the horizon again. I am committed to fate that we need to keep learning until the day before we die. If not, you will become one of the living dead.

So how did I get slammed again? Alan Cross, a good friend from my former days in the music industry, published an excellent article about the current state of music production that mentally just blew me away. Go read it if you haven't done so already.

I thought I had experienced enough “Disruptive Technologies” during my tenure at WEA (Warner, Elektra, Atlantic) but I was wrong. To reflect here are some of the main disruptions I personally survived.

The death of the 8-Track Tape

The peak of Vinyl albums as the mainstay of people wanting to enjoy music, although we did experience a minor Disruptive Technology when the decision was made to eliminate our “Nice Price” category and all albums were priced north of $10.00 migrating the purchase of an album from impulse to a thought-initiated investment, since it now became a credit card purchase.

Manufacturing costs were minimal compared to Royalties, so we quickly learned how evil Inventory was. Even if you thought about adding inventory it was going to cost you. To increase velocity and reduce inventory we were one of the first industries to embrace the use of a Fax machine to communicate requirements to suppliers. We replaced warehouses with cargo aircraft. Oh wow, the cost of logistics became insignificant compared to cost and management of inventory.

People wanted that portability of listening to music, but they also wanted to be in control of what they wanted to listen to. They also became tired of making their own “mix-tapes” on their portable cassette players waiting patiently by the radio for their desired song to air. When the Sony Walkman arrived it shifted the industry, where of total album sales 50% was shipped as pre-recorded cassettes. Artists were not pleased since with the cassette, being a smaller format, the graphic did little to stimulate impulse sales and liner notes had to be creatively reduced but remain pertinent. I think this when “squinty print” came into vogue.

During this period we started to see bands producing “Music Videos” which increased in volume to justify a dedicated TV channel where you could watch non-stop music videos. So now the artist in addition to being able to play great music had to look great on a screen.

On the cusp we were learning about the clean digital sound that could be reproduced on a Compact Disk. The format allowed for larger content, cleaner sounds and was portable. The artists were not that happy about the technology since they researched the planet to find that perfect studio with the perfect acoustic ambiance that only be shared with an analogue transfer from studio to vinyl - but the consumer ultimately decided, and the Compact Disk (CD) became our music storage medium of choice.

We as industry leaders were warned that days of where a consumer would purchase a complete album was ending, unless an album had several chart-topping songs. A one hit song would not necessarily move sales of an album but the more songs from the album that charted sales would exponentially increase.

I am going to avoid the review of the evolution of Videos, DVD and Blue-Ray since that is a very complex topic in itself and another rabbit hole.

However, Disruptive Technology is constantly shifting our economic and mental state. Covid as a disruptive influence is still not done with us yet. We adjusted going into the Pandemic, we pivoted and re-pivoted during the Pandemic realizing that it was lingering longer than any of us expected and we will experience another Disruption once we have stabilized the Covid Virus. Get ready …

  • What was considered unacceptable is now acceptable.

  • What was tolerated before, will not be tolerated post Covid.

  • Business that has boomed during the Pandemic will bust post-pandemic

  • While others that have almost disappeared will come back with a resurgence stronger than ever.

The constant? Society will only invest in what they perceive as Value and emerging disruptive technologies will entice consumers to shift.

Finally, if you are like me and a bit upset that our schools have dropped teaching our children cursive writing you will most likely be upset after reading Alan’s article. But ultimately you just need to embrace emerging technologies or risk being stupid and lost.

Thought Reflection shared …

To digress a bit, as I was looking for some data and information for this article I stumbled across Professor Clayton’s presentation back in 1998. He used the example of how an electrical vehicle would require to be considered a Disruptive Influence.

What Would Have to Happen for the Electric Vehicle to Be a Disruptive Technology?

• Technologically simple

• Starts at low price point

• Does not depend on other infrastructural or technological changes

• Market application is financially unattractive to existing competitors

• Facilitates or makes more convenient existing patterns of customer behavior; success is not predicated upon behavioral channel

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