Businesses deal with disruption in a variety of ways, but those affected by on-demand seem to realize now that these new digital platforms are an actual threat. In January San Francisco’s biggest taxi company filed for bankruptcy. Bear in mind this is a protected municipal monopoly that up until several years ago faced no competition whatsoever.
The heady world of digital delivery changed all that as ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have taken a serious bite out of long-established businesses.
In the days before digital disruption, you stood on the corner and hailed a taxi or booked a hotel room. You might have called your favorite restaurant for delivery and it might have offered such a service or not.
The intersection of cloud and mobile changed everything. With a computer in our pockets, the introduction of app stores and access to cheap cloud services, clever people came up with these platforms (and many others like them) and it has fundamentally changed businesses and created whole new ways of working.
All of that is having a profound impact on us as we struggle to keep up with the changes they bring. For the taxi and hotel businesses, what started as an irritant is becoming a full-fledged threat to their business models.
There is something else happening here. Even as organizations are being disrupted, so are we and what’s changing is the way we work (and expect to work).
There have been a range of responses from individuals to digitization of certain industries — and if it hasn’t happened to yours yet, expect it to soon. Taxi drivers have felt the change most directly from ride sharing. They have reacted with strikes and sometimes with violence, illustrating that it’s not just the industry itself feeling the full weight of disruption, but also the individuals who work in it in a very direct way.
Yet even as taxi drivers feel the sting of competition, many others are joining the ranks of Uber drivers. Every time I get in an Uber I ask the driver why they do it and if they like it and in most cases people like the model. Some do it to supplement a full-time job, while the majority earn their living from Uber.
These folks have the advantage of working on the digital platform that Uber created for them. They have flexibility to work as much or as little as they want. They simply turn on the app when they want to work and they start picking people up. If they don’t want to work, they turn it off.
While people clearly love the flexibility that this work style brings, companies like Uber, which has a valuation of over $60 billion rake in the dough. Clearly drivers are making a trade-off for that flexibility — and that comes with a lack of benefits, a condition that did not escape the parade of speakers at yesterday’s conference. It’s great to work when you want, but it’s not so great when you don’t get paid because you got the flu or hurt your back.
It’s worth noting that while Uber is a highly successful example of this work model, it is hardly the only digital platform operating this way.
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Yes, industries everywhere are being transformed by technology… even relatively new industries like cannabis.
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