Just because you can, does it mean you should?

Friday, 7th July 2017

Creative Disruption roundtable discussion organised by pro manchester, in association with Carter Corson and Manchester Metropolitan University.

By Michael Taylor and Rupert Cornford

It was a first to have Jurassic Park quote in a round table discussion in Manchester about disruption and creativity – but it was a fair point that raised some fundamental moral and ethical questions on the business agenda.

Unintended consequences can often be harmful and detrimental. While Uber have undoubtedly made getting a taxi ride from one side of the city to another more efficient and technologically slick, the effect on drivers has been mixed. There has been almost a militant uprising amongst drivers of Deliveroo, the takeaway food app.
Elsewhere, Airbnb may be a great way to book a cheap room in a city, but it’s made life unbearable for neighbours of apartments who didn’t realise they were living next door to 24- hour party people.

These were just some of topics we touched on in an expansive and first of a series of round table discussions, organised by pro manchester, in association with Carter Corson and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Mindful that many words and phrases bandied about in business can quickly lose their meaning – does anyone really understand what an “ecosystem” is? – we nevertheless wanted to use “disruption” as our theme for a range of businesses in the creative industries.

From the production of content to the distribution of entertainment and the execution of campaigns, all of our creative industries are working amidst the fastest moving and disruptive of times.

Our discussion covered a wide ground. Tunafish Media, a relatively young business, has not only adopted and utilised new technology to shift their offer of what they bring to their clients – but the manner in which they deliver it has also radically shifted the terms of trade between clients and agency.

But nowhere in the creative mix is more disrupted than what we once knew as television – how on one hand a film can in theory be shot without prohibitively expensive camera equipment, then right through to how the rights to the idea are held, and ultimately to how the end result is eventually distributed. What is it that Great British Bake Off represents once Mary Berry and Mel and Sue have left, and it turns out that the tent also isn’t owned by the production company. Amazon Prime and Netflix are turning the model upside down.

The discussion was far from a whinge. It was a call to arms for mental resilience, new ideas and communal support. Business isn’t meant to be easy, every business has to adapt or perish, but deeper collaboration with unexpected partners can yield fascinating results.

If you do it right, then of course you should.

What does disruption mean to you?

Katie Peate, Business Growth Hub A lot of the best disruption is about two worlds colliding, or tech colliding with people and a problem. That’s time consuming; it takes leg work and networking for business leaders.

Graham Mallinson, d2 As part of an initiative to get technology into schools, when we set up the business, we could have been very disruptive to the publishers at the time. We developed games for Channel4 and the BBC asked us to do something similar: they were challenged by publishers, legally, because it was unfair competition according to those fighting it.

Sam Ward, Tunafish Media Disruption is a buzzword at the moment, and it can be shallow. It’s all down to what you are trying to achieve… The biggest thing is about going against your voice online, or your social media strategy, for example. It’s down to your interpretation.

Mark Stringer, Ahoy – It’s about doing something differently and it working for the better. Understand what wave you are riding and how you can do things differently. It’s also about context – a café selling time instead of coffee is quite disruptive.

Nick Beech, Creative England To my mind, it’s something that happens which forces people out of business, such as the Blockbuster / Netflix situation.

Ross Holland, Makers Academy How do you separate the noise from people who are actually doing things differently? Disruption in its truest sense is doing something differently from the ground up.

Guy Levine, Return on Digital It’s the first time in ages we have got political, financial and technological disruption and it actually looks like the world is leaderless at the moment. Tech companies can create usability to create a following.

David Edmundson-Bird A lot of disrupters come from outside the industries they are disrupting. Tesla isn’t a power company; EasyJet had a booking system that happened to own aeroplanes.

When does disruption go too far?

Sandy Lindsay, Tangerine Airbnb is disrupting neighbourhoods and not in a good way. I was talking to one of the neighbours who lived above a place I stayed in and he was saying it was a nightmare – ‘dragging cases up the stairs late in the evening, we live here’. They live in those blocks of flats and everyone is trying to sell.

Dave Edmundson-Bird There are countries now in Europe with Airbnb law. If you want to rent a villa out, you have to pay the taxes, also they have to have every room up to hotel standards. It is possible to legislate against the big effects.

Steve Kuncewicz, Bermans Google Glass became an enterprise solution because it was run out of town when they wanted to bring it into Europe for consumers. The problem is that the law can’t keep up; all of the morals of how we should use this technology are still developing. It certain circumstances, what disruption does is put a machine gun in the hands of a child.

Dave Edmundson-Bird Tech entrepreneurs have become the new nuclear scientists of the 21st Century, spending most of their time thinking of they could, but not actually thinking if they should. Is there a better way of managing this? Some people making a load of money, and other people are going to suffer.

Mallinson As far as I can see, disruption doesn’t come with a morality tag.

Steve Kuncewicz All of this gives you a filter to the outside world; just because you can do something, it’s whether you should. You can’t abdicate your responsibility.
Lindsay The great thing now though is we have a voice; we can put people out of business.

Karl Gilbank, Apadmi You have an opportunity to make a choice. I don’t think any of these companies are taking away our choice.

Beech The brutal fact is that the market is amoral. I’m not saying people who run companies are amoral, but it might mean people perish because they can’t feed their families, or we might all et hover cars. That’s why we have the state. It’s about how we structure our society, perhaps taxing companies causing all this disruption, so when the bottom falls out of the market they can be supported.


Disruptive cultures?

Companies will have to work hard to develop their own talent and create a culture that enables disruptive creativity. As the discussion drew to a close, business leaders shared their challenges of nurturing the right people and skills, in order to achieve their long term commercial aims. It’s nothing new, of course, but the ability to create a commercial environment, which can support new and disruptive business models needs people; people who are motivated and drawn to work for an organisation. Setting clear values, goals and an identity will help attract the young, creative, disruptive minds of the future; they will feel supported to solve problems and make money at the same time.

This round table event was held at the King Street Townhouse Hotel, in conjunction with pro manchester, Carter Corson Business Psychologists and Manchester Metropolitan University. It was the first in a series of sector group round tables, which brought together key players in the city’s creative industries. Upcoming discussions will take place with the healthcare and property sectors. For more information, please contact Claire Turnbull at Pro Manchester [email protected]