Y&R global CEO David Sable has entered the lists about what agencies and business as a whole should be doing with a plea that the industry loses its obsession with the term ‘disruption’ and that real innovators should look elsewhere for inspiration.
Speaking at Dmexco in Cologne, Sable (left) said in his “In An Age of Disruption, What Are We Really Disrupting?” keynote address that the industry’s obsession with claiming that technology and data was causing disruption and innovation was inaccurate.
Using examples from retail, education, politics and the app based economy, he pointed out that in many instances so-called disruptions had been anything but that. Instead they were just new ways of doing things that had been done before.
Citing the example of Amazon, Sable said that Amazon’s mission statement was almost identical to that of the 1897 manifesto from Sears (essentially everything, everywhere, quicker and cheaper). He also pointed out that apps were no longer the panacea that they once were believed to be – with downloads diminishing at a remarkable note.
In order to refocus real innovators, Sable said that the buzzword ‘disruption’ should be abandoned in favour of a more meaningful term – ‘dissidence’.
Sable describes a dissident as “a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy or institution.” Only by adopting a mindset that focuses on this rather than the broad application of data and algorithms to try and solve existing problems can innovators change the world.
Dissidence relies on acknowledging that people should be put first – that creativity remains the story and that technology – on whatever platform new or old – is the enabler to make this happen.
This might be viewed as “angels on a pinhead” but Sable has a point. Jean-Marie Dru, now chairman of TBWA, actually trademarked ‘disruption’ back in 1991. But he now says, as does Sable, that it’s become synonymous with ‘destruction.’
Will we ever escape this phase where the only thing that matters is technology and the ability of a small number of US tech-based companies to blitz the competition to their, if not necessarily our, benefit? Increasingly they control our lives, after all.
The real issue, perhaps, is how do the rest of us contain the technopolists?
But Sable’s made an interesting contribution to the debate.