Join MIT SMR on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT to discuss how tech is changing organizations and their workforces.
Everyone’s talking about “the future of work” — but is that future already here? We’re hosting this chat because we’re interested in discussing what the future means for companies and their workforces. Every field has been touched by digitalization, and new technologies promise to increase efficiencies by automating routine tasks and giving customers immediate access to new experiences. (Uber and Lyft wouldn’t exist without the smartphone, after all.) What does this mean for companies? How is work changing? And what does this mean for employees? Let’s talk about the new mindsets, skills, and career trajectories people need to continue cultivating to contribute to their organizations and find meaning in the work they do.
We hope you’ll join us Tuesday, Feb. 25, for this conversation.
To participate, head over to MIT Sloan Management Review’s Twitter feed (@mitsmr) at the chat start time, or search Twitter for the hashtag #MITSMRChat to follow along.
By entering the market with products and services that are every bit as good as those offered by legacy companies, a new breed of disrupters is making it harder than ever for traditional businesses to compete.
Clayton Christensen’s Theory of Disruptive Innovation first came to public attention 25 years ago. Christensen presciently explained that fast-moving disrupters entering the market with cheap, low-quality goods could undermine companies wed to prevailing beliefs about competitive advantage. In the last decade, however, the profile of disrupters has changed dramatically. The critical difference is that they now enter the market with products and services that are every bit as good as those offered by legacy companies. Their ascendance doesn’t undermine Christensen’s theory. In fact, they expand its reach and vitality — and make it harder than ever for traditional companies to compete.
The Classic Theory of Disruption
Before we look at how things have evolved, let’s briefly review why Christensen’s theory proved so influential and, indeed, disruptive to existing ideas of competitive advantage.1 Traditional strategy had been anchored on the notion of “generic strategies” in which a company could compete at the high end by differentiating, at the low end by pursuing cost leadership, or focus on serving a specific niche exceptionally well.2 Christensen illustrated a way for new entrants to cheerfully ignore these basic strategy dynamics. He showed how a new kind of dangerous competitor could wreak havoc by entering at the low end of a market, where margins are thin and customers are reluctant to pay for anything they don’t need.
The new entrant comes in with a product or service that’s cheaper and more convenient but that doesn’t offer the same level of performance on the dominant criteria that most customers expect from incumbents that have been working on the technology for years. The incumbents feel they can ignore the newcomer. Not only are its products inferior, but its margins are lower and its customers less loyal. Incumbents choose instead to focus on sustaining innovation — making improvements to the features that have been of most value to their high-end customers.
Christensen showed the downside of ignoring the newcomers. Eventually, as these upstarts improve, they become pretty good at the old dominant criteria. They also develop such solid innovations at the low end that they bring new customers into the market. Having doubled down on what has always worked, the incumbents fail to notice two things.
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Sam Schwartz, the traffic engineer who literally invented the word "gridlock," offers an overview of the last 100 years of cars and traffic. And he offers the sobering warning that if we don’t alter our ideas about autonomous vehicles, we may find ourselves living in a future designed for cars rather than the people they are intended to serve. Mr. Schwartz is CEO of Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants, a firm that specializes in transportation planning and engineering. He is the traffic columnist, Gridlock Sam, for The New York Daily News (he released the word ‘gridlock’ into the public lexicon). Previously Mr. Schwartz was New York City’s Traffic Commissioner. He started his transportation career in the late 1960’s as a NYC cabbie and joined the Traffic Department, as a junior engineer, in 1971.
Mr. Schwartz’s most recent books, No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future (2018) and Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and The Fall of Cars (2015) lay out a recipe for cities faced with rapid changes in modes, automation, demographic shifts and travelers’ preferences.
Mr. Schwartz has been an adjunct professor for 40 years at some of New York City’s most respected colleges and universities including Cooper Union, Long Island University, Hunter College and Brooklyn College.
He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics at Brooklyn College and received a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Florida. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx