5 Business Disruptions that have Shaped Our World
Over the past year, we have witnessed some pretty massive business disruptions to our way of life and our way of doing business. These may have come as a complete surprise to us all but have been in plain sight all along. Several disruptions have occurred in the 21st Century that, have come about as a surprise to us although they have been in plain sight.
- Dot Com / Dot Bomb
- Subprime Mortgage
- Social Media
- Donald Trump
The Dot Com Boom:
The first business disruption to discuss is the Dot Com boom and the subsequent Dot Bomb. Back in 1965, Some Government types invested in this thing called the internet. The internet ended up revolutionizing communications; by the ’80s, you could go on a Bulletin Board and argue politics and play games with friends. Is it any wonder that someone may have figured out how to sell stuff on the internet sooner or later? Does it take a rocket scientist to get that people would instead order things from home rather than fighting traffic to drive over to Monkey Wards?
Yet retail was totally caught with their pants down when the shift. We lost several long-time retail establishments like Montgomery Wards, even though Wards created its own disruption in the 19th Century.
The Dot Bomb:
Of course, a part of this business disruption is the other side of the coin, what was called, The Dot Bomb if a business is not showing a profit, its value will not rise. After months of stock gains by firms that were not even taking in revenue in the dot-bomb, just because they had “dot com” in their name. You could have a company called, hemroids.com and it would skyrocket in price.
Economists were touting how there was a new economy. Finally, people realized that the emperor had no clothes, and the whole tech sector crashed. The NASDAQ peaked at above 5000 in March of 2000. It then crashed, and it took until March of 2014 to again hit 5000. People gained and lost fortune, even though it was well known that it wasn’t worth anything if a business had no revenue. Scotty may have been able to break the laws of physics, but the dot-commers, as much as a disruption as they were, could not violate the laws of economics.
The Subprime Mortgage Crisis:
One of my favorite lines in Star Trek is when Scotty tells Kirk, “I canna break the laws of physics.,” which is what I think of when I remember this business disruption.
The laws of economics are maybe a little more forgiving, but not by much! When people borrow money, the rule is that it gets paid back. When people loan money to those who don’t have the means to pay it back, there will be problems. It has been that way in the entire history of money. If there is no money to pay back the loans, there will be a negative economic impact – no matter how you might want to structure or restructure the loans,
Yet when that’s how it ended up, everyone was surprised. Firms that have been around since day one, like Bear Stearns, went belly up. No one saw the crises coming even though the disruption was right in plain sight!
Social Media was another business disruption. Social media permeates our lives. Hard to fathom that a few years ago, people were like, “Face What?” I remember laughing for hours over the name of Twitter, thinking about what a stupid name that was. Well, silly name or not, it has become a part of our lives. It has been used by celebrities, politicians, business leaders, and everyday Joes to spread their message. Remember the days when if you wanted anyone to read your excellent opinion piece you wrote, you had to get it published in a News Paper?
Back in the 80s, there were these things called BBS’s where you could use your 300 baud modem to connect up with the BBS and write whatever you wanted to write, where people would read it. Eventually, someone would be bound to expand this.
This one will be controversial; although I disagree with Donald Trump and his movement, I do not disagree that Trump was a business disruption. Arguably, the orange-headed former reality show host has been one of the most transformative trends of my lifetime. When Trump announced his candidacy on Trump Tower’s escalator, Many thought he was merely doing another stunt to promote his business or TV Show.
Trump had always been an over-the-top personality who would create notoriety and then capitalize the notoriety. Suddenly, though, he and his Make America Great Again movement caught the imagination of millions of people, and he unexpectedly was elected president. This transformed the entire nation. and the world is a much different place than it was in 2016 when he was elected
At first glance, Trump came out of nowhere, but actually, the movement had been in plain sight for years. People had been growing increasingly upset with Governmental structures not responding to their needs. Technology and globalization have long been eliminating jobs and changing the world. Manufacturing jobs were leaving the country, and as far back as 1992 and 1996, H. Ross Perot and his “Huge Sucking Sound” drew over 8% of the voters.
COVID was probably the most significant business disruption of my lifetime. The pandemic and its fallout have transformed everything from healthcare, entertainment, education, employment, dating, and fitness. We have found new ways to do almost anything in a manner that minimizes human contact.
This is a massive interruption. People grieve over the lost pre-covid reality with people at various Elisabeth Kübler–Ross grief stages, from denial to acceptance. This new reality COVID has seemingly created has given us stuff that will stick around, such as Zoom Dating, Video Medicine, Streaming, and working from home. These all have been around long before COVID! I have been working remotely on and off for over 20 years, had a Netflix account since the Bush Administration, and overheard my surgeon video conferencing while having heart surgery!
Pandemics are nothing new; I can remember Hong Kong Flu, Two swine flu pandemics, SARS, Ebola, HIV, and killer strep. We knew the warning signs, and we had procedures in place to deal with them, yet we were all surprised and caught with our pants down on dealing with this one.
So, boys and girls, what have we learned? We have learned that if you look, business disruptions are right there in plain sight. We also learned that despite them being in plain sight, we often miss them. In that case, we have to take action to deal with them. In my next article, we will discuss the steps to successfully handle a disruption.
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