Brands today aren’t just creating new products to drive commerce. Some are taking it a step further and building new infrastructure and methods for how people live and interact within society. Companies like Uber have revolutionized the way we travel not only displacing the taxi industry but that of public transit, something that has traditionally been organized by governments.

Representatives from some of today’s biggest, and most disruptive, companies like Google, Uber and Twitter explored what disruption really is and how these innovations affect society at the Urban Land Institute’s  panel titled, Transforming Our Future: How Disruptive is Disruptive Technology,  held on November 3 in Toronto.

Change a behaviour.

“More people are shifting from citizens to consumers,” said moderator Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto. “Many people are left out of the consumer sharing economy.”

To counter her point, Uber Canada’s General Manager Ian Black explained that the company’s service is most popular in what he refers to as “transit deserts”, areas where traditional service is poor or cabs rarely frequent.

“We’re responding to a need,” said Black. “As much as it is about growth of a platform, what is disruptive is a change in behaviour.”

In Uber’s case, the disruptions allows residents who live in transit deserts to have access to transportation on-demand. Black’s vision is that people won’t need to own cars anymore because transportation services will be faster and more affordable than ownership.

airbnbIncrease the scale.

Airbnb’s Country Manager Aaron Zifkin believes technology isn’t disruptive until it reaches scale. The service allows people to rent our their homes or apartments for short visits like a hotel would. It took the company four years to reach 1 million guests and this summer alone the company and its hosts welcomed more than 17 million paying visitors in cities around the world.

This has disprupted the normal flow of business and peak times for hotelliers, and leads to some Airbnb users  breaking zoning laws in their communities. Black argues that people have been renting out their homes for millennia and Airbnb is simply a more traditional way to hosts guests in a city.

For Steve Ladurantaye, Head of Government Partnerships for Twitter Canada that reasoning seemed to sell the value of disruptive technologies short.

“It made the invention of the flame thrower no less impressive that we discovered fire in caves,” said Ladurantaye.

Continue to innovate.

Even established brands like Twitter are aware of the fight to innovate. Twitter has recently enabled videos to be shared through the platform, new polling functionality and a new analytics platform. 

“My father was in the printing industry, my father-in-law was a cartographer [and] you can see where both of these professions have gone,” said Ladurantaye.

The message: Find ways to disrupt the conversation in your industry. If you can change people’s behaviors, you—like Uber—can become a daily part of their lives.

Learn how to help you clients stay a step ahead by downloading our guide to social media monitoring.


About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada

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