The Painful Cost of Disruptive Innovation: Uber & Cancer?

“It’s like a cancer,” he said. I was in a limo in DC asking the driver who owns a fleet of town cars and vans, what he thought of Uber. He told me his wife just had a recurrence of a serious cancer and he likened it to Uber’s relentless and heartless intrusion into his transportation business.

Bottom line, Uber has tremendously disrupted his business and he is pissed. What most people admire and call a brilliant business model (UberX), he considers unfair and unjust. And he’s not alone, as this Bloomberg article points out.

This is what disruptive innovation does. It stirs things up, hurts the status quo. It causes pain and suffering to people invested in the product or service that was disrupted.

Some pivot and take advantage of the disruption. Others get protective of their turf and fight back. Sometimes they have enough power to fend off or minimize the disruption.  Like with stethoscopes, which should by now be a relic, replaced by high-resolution hand-held ultrasound devices, as Eric Topol points out.

And sometimes it’s a long drawn-out war. Like between some med device companies and durable medical equipment suppliers (DMEs), many of whom may be replaced by other distribution outlets coupled with new patient monitoring systems.

Is disruptive innovation bad? No. By definition, it serves a higher good. But we need to acknowledge it does cause pain to some. We can disrupt with compassion for those who are supplanted. It keeps us all a little more human.