Disrupt or Be Disrupted: The Impact on Businesses Large and Small

Prepared for the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce Lunch on 17th January 2017 

We are entering an age of extreme change characterised by changing business models, emerging technologies and the increasing power of the consumer.  Smaller companies, such as Uber and AirBnB in their early days, seemingly rise out of nowhere and cause mayhem in well-established industries.  The velocity, scope, and nature of the disruptions that we are starting to encounter are unprecedented. 

Typically disruptions happen when smaller, more agile companies, can  take advantage of new technologies to completely change the way an industry works. Unencumbered by existing organisational structures and capital investment, they start with a clean sheet of paper.  Larger companies often find it difficult to respond because of outdated ways of working, legacy systems and resistance to change. 

While smaller companies nip at the heels of bigger ones; consumers are busy changing their attitudes and their roles.  Increasingly concerned with the nature of their experience, while looking for the lowest cost and authenticity, consumers are happy to trade peer to peer.  There is a blurring of lines between who is the producer and who is the consumer.  And so we see the emergence of the most profitable new companies as those that hold no physical assets. They thrive by facilitating peer to peer interactions using digital technologies.

For smaller companies, there are significant opportunities in rapidly using technological advances to tackle markets previously dominated by big brands. For big brands, there is a real need to respond at speed, but this is incredibly hard to do.  Building a culture and structure to enable innovation is entirely new to many companies, large and small, and few people are doing it well.  It is a route to future prosperity.

In UK industry large organisations need to take on board the knowledge and capabilities of start-ups, researchers and other experts.  While at the same time smaller firms need access to opportunities.  Where big businesses hold larger purse strings but lack agility, and start-ups and other experts hold ideas and expertise, there is room for massive synergy.  There exists an opportunity to disrupt together, in response to a fast-changing consumer and technological landscape.

We see this as a coming together of start-ups and large companies into one ecosystem for disruptive innovation.  Our vision is to build a tribe of passionate people who believe that technology can be a positive force to change the status quo.   As an innovation ecosystem, we’ll help organisations with the connections, research and resources to drive that innovation and rapid business change.  In short - to disrupt rather than be disrupted.

Marc Dowd will be speaking about the changes ahead, where they come from and how, as the leader of a start-up or established company you can take advantage of them at the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce lunch on 17th January, 12 – 2 pm, Beales Hotel.

Tickets are available from the Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce website.


Marc Dowd is a specialist in disruptive innovation and carries out research on how technology trends are changing the world.  Marc is the Founder of PathFinder4 and Manage Disruption Limited and previously spent nine years as the EMEA Principal Advisor to C-level executives for Forrester Research.



The challenges faced by SME's are enormous for sure and just getting listed as a vendor often seems insurmountable as red tape and entry criteria escalate.
A collaboration seems workable with the only concern being that the SME needs to cautious of not being swallowed by the larger organization.
My company has different challenges as the solutions we market are not purchased by a consumer and in many cases seem to be a "grudge" purchase much like insurance. There will no doubt be options and opportunities to disrupt, given the fact that the insurance industry in South Africa have done it and continue to do so.
I am please to be on your mailing list and will search for those preciously hidden opportunities as the ideas flow from your tribe
Malcolm Watts
Comment by Malcolm Watts - 9 Jan 2017
I have witnessed disruption in action first hand and seen how an everyday market can be turned on its head by a start-up business through the innovative use of technology, all of which is off-the-shelf. Keys to its success were open-mind and willingness to challenge status quo. It is true a start-up can embrace these behaviours faster, but don't underestimate the current day Corporate CIO who recognises that being a trend maker rather than a trend follower is where the future is. Exciting times!!!!
Comment by David Studd - 4 Jan 2017
Hi Brendan,
I totally agree (of course), the issue is finding the best way of doing it. In the PathFinder4 ecosystem, we have software to manage "challenges" which can be set by any member and responded to by any other member with "ideas" and "capabilities". It allows as you suggest for companies of different sizes to make contact and work together in a focused and controlled way.
Comment by Marc - 3 Jan 2017
I like the focus on helping SME's to collaborate with larger companies to disrupt together and create new, broader and more innovative eco-systems. Most SME's do not have the capabilities to disrupt alone but can work with others that help spread the load and provide direction.
Comment by Brendan Dunphy - 3 Jan 2017
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