On Disruption

I imagine that if the covid virus was a character in a film it would be played by Robert De Niro in some variant of Taxi Driver:

“Disruption?
You want disruption?!
I’ll give you disruption!!”

Back in the old days – 2019 say – disruption was a business goal, a sure-fire way to make more money.

Look at how Google had disrupted all the advertising money that used to go to newspapers. Look at how Amazon had disrupted the sales money that used to go to shops. Look at how Uber had disrupted local minicab companies. Everyone in business was looking to be the next platform, the next innovator, the next disrupter, the next stock market sensation.

Politically in the UK we could also see Brexit as the disrupter of party politics – lifelong Labour voters going Conservative; lifelong Conservative going Liberal Democrats; its waves still overturning election boats five years on.

Maybe for some people the pandemic has made them start to feel there are limits to how much disruption we can take at one time.

But maybe for some other people the pandemic has been the proverbial wake-up call, where they see major changes are urgently needed – climate emergency, biodiversity collapse, hunger, poverty – and decide that another type of disruption, or revolution if you prefer the older phrase, is now needed.

And maybe the interesting policy area is if these two groups of people could be substantially the same.

They might have had enough of the ‘old disruption’ such as declining High Streets and being unable to buy a cup of coffee without using a phone app and a credit card. And they might be eager for some ‘new disruption’ such as turning half a car park into a cycle park, or voting for ten thousand new electric buses.

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