“Even with questionable ethics, Uber and Lyft aren’t merely winning the war against Boston taxis — Uber and Lyft have already won.”
It isn’t surprising that Uber, like other disruptors that have successfully offered an alternative to the status quo (e.g., Netflix, the cloud, the iPhone), is experiencing pushback. The ridesharing service seems to be rapidly cycling through the four stages of disruption recently described by former Microsoft executive Steven Sinofsky, starting with upsetting the applecart — or, as he puts it, “disruption of the incumbent” — and ending with “complete reimagination.” Who isn’t going to fight being completely reimagined?
In its protest of Uber practices, the taxi industry is also following the script to the T: According to Sinofsky, now a board partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, the threatened industry judges the disruptor “by using the existing criteria established by the incumbent.” At the same time, the incumbent (pathetically) tries to compete by copying the disruptors. In the Boston case, the incumbent’s criteria are based on livery rules established in the 1920s, and the attempt at competition comes in the form of taxi-hailing apps, such as Hailo. The attempt to compete, however, just validates the disruptors, Sinofsky argues. Cue the vicious cycle here in America’s college town, where there is no shortage of mobile app users.
So what does this pattern of disruption mean for enterprise CIOs who want to drive innovation, but are unsure of how to balance that disruption with their legacy systems and don’t know if it will even benefit the bottom line?
Some of Sinofsky’s advice to incumbents could just as well pertain to CIOs: “Your key decision is to choose carefully what you view as disruptive or not,” he said. This requires a clear understanding of the possible ways new offerings can provide value to your customers and business partners — a balancing act that is easier said than done, he cautions: “Creating this sort of chaos is something that causes untold consternation in a large organization.”
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