A different kind of disruption
A view from Sue Unerman

A different kind of disruption

It's consumers, not tech, that truly drive disruption.

Disruption is not driven by tech. Disruption is driven by dissatisfied customers. 

New technologies come and go, and always have done. The ones that stick around and disrupt our businesses are the ones that consumers choose to adopt. As Harvard Business School Professor Thales S Teixeira writes: "The most common and pervasive pattern of disruption is driven by customers." When businesses focus on customer needs and wants they respond far more effectively, time and again, than when they only focus on technology. 

So, for MediaCom’s second annual Transformation Week, back by popular demand we had a firm focus on humans, not only on tech – a focus on putting people first for better results, in fact. The people buying our clients’ goods or services and the people working for, and also leading, their businesses. 

The week opened with new research from the IPA jointly with the Financial Times that interviewed its readers worldwide to see how much they truly understand the important work of the marketing community. Is there a disconnect with the executive boards in terms of appreciating and valuing the task of creating marketing effectiveness? Should we, and can we, as a community that values marketing, disrupt their lack of insight and transform their understanding in order to ensure that those responsible for the health of business understand that marketing is an investment for the long term? (Yes, we should.)

The week’s sessions, created by MediaCom and by our brilliant partners across the industry, offered rich insight into every crucial aspect of transformation with workshops, presentations, some "rock-star" talent and fresh research. Sessions included a discussion of sustainability – a new topic for Transformation Week 2019 but one that has hurtled to the forefront of consumer concerns. ITV took us into the heart of Love Island and commercial partnership, while Sky shared with us how it has harnessed transformation in measurement for audiovisual.

Reach brought the Brexit debate to Red Lion Square, with Britain Talks participants recreating the live debate across the nation. (What happens when strangers meet and discuss politics? They certainly don’t agree, but they do find that they have more in common than they thought.) Verizon brought alive the real business transformation that 5G is heralding. Stylist showed how it is literally going from strength to strength with a new exercise studio venture. It, too, called for a transformation in the depiction of diverse women in advertising to match its editorial position.

Theobalds Road Consulting (MediaCom’s own consultancy start-up), together with Code, took participants through a fun and educational workshop on voice, where Alexa herself participated.

There was much much more than this, including a consultation on the future of out-of-home and two takes on the enduring power of radio with Chris Evans and Dave Berry. MediaCom Edinburgh held a yransformation session on purpose.

Data suggests that we’re all on a journey as far as benefiting from truly diverse teams throughout every level of management and colleagues. An important question for me is diversity 2.0: what needs to happen next? A "fishbowl" debate on this closed the sessions on the Thursday afternoon.

New WPP research has defined the seven levers of growth, and an expert panel discussed these and the typical barriers to business growth, how to build for innovation and how to overcome the typical traps along the way.

Although disruption is customer-led, digital preparedness is crucial – how do you assess where you are on this spectrum? Theobalds Road Consultancy is on hand to offer help with defining new pathways to growth and delivering "people first" transformation. 

Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom
@SueU