The Economist’s Adrian Wooldridge on the Great Disruption to business

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Adrian Wooldridge, author of the Economist’s Schumpeter column, discussed his new book The Great Disruption with IoD chief economist James Sproule

Adrian Wooldridge, who has been Schumpeter’s author since its creation in 2009, was speaking in front of a packed audience at the latest in the series of popular Books for Breakfast events at the IoD’s 116 Pall Mall headquarters in London.

The Great Disruption is based around a collection of his popular columns, exploring the disruptive forces affecting the modern business landscape. From the speed and ubiquity of the internet, to frugal innovation in emerging markets and changing managerial styles, the book casts a critical eye at the trends that are shaping the future of enterprise across the globe.

He began the discussion of The Great Disruption by firmly stating that the age of Keynesian managerial capitalism is well and truly over, although parts of the UK public sector have yet to realise it.

We are now firmly in the age of Schumpeter, entrepreneurial capitalism, and the disruptive economy, Wooldridge declared. In a warning to those already alarmed at the pace of change and globalisation, he predicted that we are much closer to the beginning of this process than the end of it.

Wooldridge explored the rise of the sharing economy, noting that it has grown from an essentially left-wing, communitarian idea, to being one of the most vicious, hyper capitalist forces on earth. That being said, he also predicted a fall in the value of Uber – at least temporarily – as it encounters the significant roadblock of US employment laws.

When pressed on UK productivity, The Great Disruption author pointed to flat output in the public sector, versus a steady rise in the productive power of the private sector.

At the same time, though, he predicted that the pace of technological progress and its obvious advantages will not be lost on public servants desperately searching for answers to spiralling costs and limited capacity. As a case in point, the NHS could find particular savings in the field of patient monitoring as wearable technology takes off.

Disruption, he also argued, is not simply limited to the realm of economics. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn, Beppe Grillo, and Donald Trump as recognised players on the world stage points to a political landscape that has also abandoned the traditional managerialism of the 20th Century.

All things considered, though, he pointed to the fact that although ambitious individuals will always look to be on the frontier of innovation and disruption, the most successful will always be those who make new innovations accessible and bring the benefits of disruption to the wider economy.

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About author

Jamie Kerr

Jamie Kerr

Jamie Kerr is parliamentary affairs officer at the Institute of Directors. Having joined the IoD in June 2014, he is responsible for assisting with policy development and parliamentary affairs. Jamie has an MA in politics from the University of Edinburgh.

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