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Is Digital Disruption only disruptive if you are not adaptive?

30 Aug 2018

Anders Mum Georg Sorman 

To my mum, running a high-end men’s clothing store in Stockholm, Sweden, digital always seems disruptive. For her, the cold world of purchasing clothes online attacks the heart of buying them in an analogue store – feeling the texture of the fabric, seeing how the item drapes and what else it can be teamed up with. (She also had some very clear ideas on what would be the best future career prospects for me.)

Maybe you see digital as being equally disruptive to your business. If so, I say the same thing to you as I say to my mother: digital is only disruptive if you aren’t adaptive, and here is why:

Use digital technology to move out from the confines of the analogue world ... and BEat Digital Disruption

Let’s look at the case of the recycling waste-pickers – or catadores – in Brazil. People have been picking over waste in Brazil, and making money from selling and recycling what they find, since the 1800s. And, according to Brazil’s environment ministry, only 18 per cent of the country’s recycling occurs as part of a formal program. So, the catadores play a vital role in making sure waste is recycled.

As depicted in movies and documentaries such as Trash and the Oscar-nominated Waste Land, however, the life is harsh, with pickers often subject to disputes and violence, and vulnerable to sickness and disease. With the closing and covering over of Rio de Janeiro’s open-air landfills in the lead up to the 2016 Olympics, many catadores were also out of a job. They were given compensation and promises of projects to educate workers and provide tools to continue working in other areas of recycling, but some illiterate pickers have seen their only source of income go down the drain.

The catadores in Sao Paulo, however, are finding a way to adapt. As covered by The Economist, these waste pickers can now take advantage of Cataki – an Uber-style app that matches catadores with people who have rubbish that needs clearing away. As well as taking away standard recyclable material, the catadores can also be matched up to take away larger items such as sofas and televisions – likely finding a way to also re-use or recycle these.

Unfortunately, their current circumstances are limiting how adaptive these catadores can be – many don’t own smartphones so have to arrange collections with older style phones. As business improves and the cost of technology continues to drop, more pickers will likely be able to take advantage of this adaptation – and the developer of the app is already planning a future version where users can post photos of the rubbish they need to collect, and the empowered and adaptive catadores can simply swipe to accept or reject the job.

Find your adaptive technology

Don’t let digital disruption leave you and your business on the garbage heap, ready to be picked over by more nimble, adaptive players. Excuse the pun. Instead, think about you can adapt to take advantage of digital advances and connectivity, while never losing your analogue heart.

Click the video below from my keynote at Connect Latam in Rio de Janeiro where I was the futurist-in-residence for Westcon-Comstor in October 2017 - for more of my thoughts on the importance of adaptation (and how annoying it must be for my mum to have a futurist for a son).


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