Wired Editor Warns of Disruption

David Rowan edits the technology and trends magazine for online brands, gadgets and the culture taking shape around them. He’s also one of JLA’s most sought after speakers for all kinds of business audience. In between speeches we asked David to pinpoint the opportunities and threats of digital…

 

What’s your advice for doing business online?

Don’t think about technology. Think about human needs and how you can serve them – with whatever digital tools are at your disposal. People’s emotional needs are pretty consistent: they want to share, communicate, develop personally and be entertained. It’s about moving up Maslow’s pyramid towards self-actualisation. Technologies like augmented reality or virtual gaming are only useful in as far as they help us towards those goals.

 

Does that chime with the growth in mobile?

Yes. If you don’t have a mobile strategy you’re in trouble. The mobile internet is the biggest transformation of our generation, affecting all aspects of consumer and business behaviour. You know where your customers are, what they want and how they’re influenced by others in their network. And they want to transact with you in real time. This isn’t about re-purposing your web strategy – it’s about rethinking how behaviour is affected by the tablet and smartphone.

 

What’s the biggest danger for business?

It’s thinking that everything can carry on as before. We are in a period of huge and perpetual disruption. Travel companies risk being made irrelevant as new services tap into the social graph; car-hire firms are being bypassed by peer-to-peer rental services, even banks are being cast aside by new entrants.

 

Is big business really under threat from start-ups?

The Internet, manufacturing innovations and crowd funding have lowered the entry barriers in almost every sector. Incumbents must expect disruption, unless they do the disrupting. And why shouldn’t you be blown out of the water by a kid in Bangkok, whose software can do what you do for a fraction of the price?

 

What’s the most exciting development on the horizon?

Within ten years self-driving cars will be the norm. Yes, it will put lots of drivers out of business and it won’t stop there – all sorts of traditional occupations will be outsourced to Artificial Intelligence. Lawyers, journalists, even consultants won’t be excluded!

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