The dark side of disruption

Disruption is a popular word of late. It is almost always framed as a positive thing.

Old approaches being updated. Organisations being forced to change for the better.  Technology bringing benefit to our lives.

In my professional space it is all about disrupting HR, disrupting work.  Challenging the old ways and old thinking.

But is disruption always a good thing?

The Uber situation tells its own story.

The revocation of their licence was not a surprise to me, having seen much written about their business practices. Their approach to the employment situation of their workforce leaves much to be desired too.

Somewhat more suprising, perhaps, was the backlash against Transport for London.

Uber launched a petition, asking for their users to support them – specifically mentioning the livelehoods of their many thousands of drivers.  It has reached 600,000 signatures according to my timeline.   There has been much dialogue too about vested interests and the stifling of innovation.

But if the rationale behind the TfL decision is based in fact (and we have no reason to suspect that it is not) then those protesters should really be calling for something else. Better terms and conditions of employment for drivers.  Better safety procedures.  Better business ethics.

DBS checks (or criminal records checks as they are more often known) are there for a reason: to ensure the safety of the people that use the service.  If Uber is not getting this right, we should all be concerned.

Technology has changed the way we live, work and behave as consumers. From a book on Amazon to a holiday home for the week, we place our faith in the reviews and the comments of others.  We stay in the homes of strangers. We call a cab via the device in our pocket – and when we get in it we do so with trust.  Just like we trust the reviews on eBay or Trip Advisor or Airbnb – whereas in the past we placed our trust in organisations and corporate websites.

Innovation is a good thing – most of the time. We know what happens to those companies that can’t or won’t change.  The high street alone is littered with corporate corpses that prove the point.  But innovation and disruption must not come at any cost.  When we talk about disrupting work, we should do so with the intent not to take away that which works, even if it is old or traditional, and replace it with something shiny and untested, but to replace it with something better.

It is hard to define potential safety issues as better. It is hard to define insecure work as better.

But oh, it sells conference tickets and books.

Just because something is cheap and convenient and popular, just because something is new and shiny, there is no reason to disregard the rulebook – or our standards and values.

Disruption can be a force for good.  But not at all costs.

2 thoughts on “The dark side of disruption

  1. Well said Gemma, and a hype-free narrative here for once. Like you, I’m a believer in disruption as a potential force for good but not at any cost.

    Does the disruption cause harm? It may cause an upset in orthodox thinking or business modelling. But harm to another human being and their safety are paramount at all costs. That is, as you rightly say, the dark side of disruption.

    Well said and a voice of reason in an otherwise hyperbolic exchange of views in this area.

  2. Balance and challenge are always good as people get whipped up by a new idea. In truth, what might happen here is that the Uber ruling in facts end up disrupting the DBS system (itself a reaction to tragedy). In this age of tech, there have to be better ways of sensibly protecting people than running a police records check once every few years.

    What is fascinating here is the confrontation between rules and flexibilty, as you say. I don’t think any of us brave new world pioneers want to see the end of any kind of framework – we just want to challenge what is so often the default position of setting hard lines in an attempt to simplify reality into something manageable.

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