Tools to understand, map and model the disruption headed your way

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Disruption doesn’t emerge from out of the blue. Like an earthquake, even the most sudden disruptive impact will generate foreshocks before it hits with full force. By monitoring these signals – however subtle or fragmented they seem – your business can ensure it’s not just prepared for disruption, but able to turn risk into opportunity.

Separate reality from hype

Within a decade, the 'Essential Eight' will be a normal part of everyday life and work. To help you get a feel for what that future will really be like, we’ve created a unique Virtual Reality world that allows you to step into 2030 and walk through the city of the future. It gives you a vivid, first-hand experience of the world as it will be, stimulating a richer and more strategic conversation about where and how you will fit into it.

At the same time, we’ve developed a weak signal monitoring capability for clients that scans the horizon for those weak signals of coming disruption that are hardest to detect. Our disruption and emerging tech team can help you create a risk radar and map the new landscape of risk and opportunity presented by emerging technologies.

The key is to identify the critical uncertainties for your business. Every sector has ‘Black Swans’: unpredictable yet game-changing disruptive shifts such as virtual reality experiences replacing demand for physical travel or retail, or synthetic biology dramatically improving life expectancy. Perhaps you are a business in the transport sector, for whom the commercialisation of hyperloop and wireless charging are the Black Swans. We can help you monitor global media across languages and platforms to detect early warning of these emerging disruptions.

The second key success factor of our weak signal monitoring approach is its scope. We scan widely enough, to detect not only those disruptions that are heading straight for the centre of your business, but also those at – or potentially moving in from – the margins. It’s vital to pick up signals of disruptive change across your entire ecosystem of partners, suppliers, customers, regulators and more, since these will ultimately impact your core business itself.

Finally, we scan both the near and far time horizon. This involves making a tactical assessment of imminent, short-term disruptions based on current technologies, while also looking beyond these to the second horizon: the as-yet unseen future in which today’s seeds of innovation will – in just a few years’ time – have germinated into significant disruptors. However, it’s also important to be aware that disruption is not a single discrete event that can be dealt with once and for all. So it’s vital to keep scanning the horizons, running scenarios, and continually feeding the outputs back into new decisions – which are then reassessed in turn as further new signals emerge.

With weak signal monitoring in place, and specific risks and opportunities for your business identified and understood, your business is well-equipped to undertake rigorous modelling of the impacts. Which areas of your business face the greatest threats and opportunities? What are the investment implications? How do you sort the real signals from the noise? What are the second and third order effects?  To answer these questions and more, we analyse the implications using a business model canvas taking into account the forces accelerating or inhibiting the degree of change. We then attach probabilities, timeframes and severities to each impact. This enables risk prioritisation, to assess which disruptors need critical action – providing a solid foundation for an agile, future-proof strategy for your business.

These tools and methodologies make it easier to separate the reality from the mass of hype that often surrounds disruptive technologies. You will get clearer visibility of the Black Swans heading your way, model how the resulting uncertainties could play out in a range of scenarios, and future-proof your business against disruptive change. Can you imagine what your organisation will look like in a world of zettabytes and yottabytes?

In combination, the right weak signal monitoring and risk prioritisation capabilities will enable you to filter out the noise in today’s deluge of data and pick out the genuine sounds of imminent disruption approaching. So keep watching and listening, and stay vigilant. Any business that fails to do this will – sooner or later – find itself caught by surprise.

Contact us

Leo Johnson

Leo Johnson

Partner, Disruption Lead, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7212 4147

Euan Cameron

Euan Cameron

UK Artificial Intelligence and Drones Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7802 438423

Jeremy Dalton

Jeremy Dalton

Head of VR/AR, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7701 295956

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