What will be disrupted next?
The first is what I call the Branson effect. Like him or not, Richard Branson is trying to change the way we do business, and has been fairly successful at changing the travel industry, airline industry and bridal industry, and has just established a toehold in the cellular phone industry. Now, it appears Virgin has set it's sights on the financial services industry. Branson seems to target industries that are rigid, locked into bloody competition with little comparative differentiation. He brings in a different customer experience and, as far as I can tell, some magic pixy dust. Want to know which industries may be disrupted or at least feel a significant pressure to change? Watch what Richard Branson and Virgin do. His organization does not appear to care about industry verticals or expertise - he thinks he can hire that.
Second, watch the societal and demographic trends. Lately I've been reading a lot about people who are gardening in their back yards, or on rooftops in cities. This is the immediate result of the costs of food and the growing organic movement - eating locally grown, organic food. But it eventually could change the way we think about farming and food consumption. Can we rely on an ever dwindling fragment of our population to grow our food in the hinterlands when the rest of us migrate to the coasts and big cities? Also, bet your life there will be a lot of new products and services for the retiring baby boom population. There probably aren't enough golf courses, casinos and adventure travel companies to keep the retirees busy. These individuals won't sit at home watching TV. They will be involved in their community and in travel and leisure. Look for new products, services and solutions for people over 65 to continue their favorite activities at a very high level of competence.
Third, keep an eye on the management of personal information. Think the "Data cloud" for corporate America is interesting, given all the data that every company generates? Think about how much content and data any specific individual creates, uses and manages on a given day. Music, video, chat streams, photos and more. Individually we need methods to capture and manage our own proprietary content and protect it, share it and distribute it. While we have a number of tools based on the medium (Twitter for chat, Skype for Voice, Flickr for photos, etc) there is no one organizing medium, product or service to help capture, manage, store, recall and publish all of our personal content. There's a huge opportunity here, as we migrate away from large monolithic publishing houses like TV Networks or book publishers and each of us become our own publishers.
What industries can you ignore? Any industry that Congress has in its legislative sights. We can argue about the costs of health care, but a 1000 page bill clamps a significant number of limits on innovation in health care and insurance. Likewise with the automobile industry in the US. Even under the cover of federal ownership, GM and Chrysler lag behind the foreign manufacturers in terms of innovation. This goes for financial services as well. Many of the new rules in financial services, like stricter rules on over limit fees or interest rates will have the perverse result of limiting credit that people can receive and costing those of us with good credit even more. In these cases, watch for disruptive innovation on the margin, as nimble players carve up the health care and financial services spaces the way Toyota and Honda carved up the auto market in the US in the 70s and 80s.
These are just a few suggestions to watch for to see the next disruptions in action. I'd be interested in your thoughts. What are you watching? What disruptions do you expect?