Business Disruption & Economic Development


Last week I gave a presentation to Economic Development Australia (NSW) Conference on the nature of disruption, its potential impacts on local economies, and how regional business leaders can begin to deal with it.

Whilst disruption leads to great opportunities in terms of Economic Development, it is also a source of risk. The challenge for Government, as it is for individual businesses, is to find the right balance and assist in nurturing that balance, should be a role for Economic Development practitioners. The biggest risk being to do nothing at all.

Disruption is everywhere in our economy and increasing, patterns of consumption ere being broken, our sense of normality as consumers is being redefined, markets and competitors, are changing or being created anew.

In some cases, it is a great thing to happen to society, the economy, to business, but if you have an industry that is being disrupted then local jobs are at risk.

What are the opportunities?

Disruptive technologies by there very nature are global in their reach. However, the development and innovative execution has to be done somewhere. So why not in your area? The Australian technology market is in a position of strength, with investment & valuation is very high. There is an appetitive for technology, the start-up scene is booming, we have home grown success stories already making a mark on the global stage.

It is proven that opportunities exist to find and create uncontested market space, disrupt established industries, while at the same time create new products, new markets, and new employment opportunities in your region.

Government policy makers and Economic Development practitioners need to ensure that they work to offset negative impacts of disruption to industries, in their regions, on their workforce. The opportunities come from either encouraging your business community to do something disruptive, or to use disruptive technologies in their own businesses to competitive advantage.

Blue Ocean is ideal for a business; however, a lot can be done to ensure sustainability & business success by catching your business community. Economic Development strategy should look toward strengthening their knowledge, the use of established technologies, and in the strategic use of new & emerging technologies. The results will lay in the capacity for the business to improve their value chain, to lower costs, increase efficiencies, increase market reach & profit, and potentially find new services to offer.

What can we do about it?

Economic Development practitioners need to feed the future. To harness digital change, we need to provide the education & talent needs of our existing and future businesses and entrepreneurs. We need to create the garden in which the next generation can thrive. Education of existing business community, attraction & incubation of new business & new digital talent, and retaining them as they grow ad becomes successful.

Identify Your New-Economy Ecosystem

You need to make overt your regional digital ecosystem, this may take some looking, but once defined, leave it dynamic & open. Your regional digital ecosystem will consist of leaders, doers, educators, observers, complimentary business, supporting & sponsoring business, shared work spaces, incubators, business associations, start-ups, digital champions, and representatives not mentioned that are you unique to your region. The elements need to be brought together as a network, and encouraged to form a community.

This community should be supportive & encouraging in an environment of risk. It needs to advocate a safety in risk, to fail fast, and try again often. The many attempts should be seen as positives rather than negatives that is often the case in our business culture. This community reinforces the right culture for success in the new economy.


A clear strategy is required to encourage innovation & the digital ecosystem in your business community. How are you going to identify & network your ecosystem? How are you going to make it apparent to itself & its parts, and get involvement? How are you going to facilitate the required education to your business community? What partnerships are required? How are you going to create an environment conducive to developing & retaining your digital natives and entrepreneurs? How are you going to encourage networking & collaboration within your business community? How are you going to support them with infrastructure needs?


Clearly it is important to encourage collaboration & to establish partnerships. Universities and Schools are important, as well as encouraging mentoring relationships between existing innovative businesses, and with start-ups. Partnerships with Upper levels of Government would be a huge benefit to support localised initiatives. State and/or Federal Government funded programs would be an enormous benefit.


Leadership is vital, whether it is your own, or via existing Champions in your region. Disruption is happening. It is happening more often, faster, and with increasingly greater effect on our business communities. Do we harness it as a potential for growth, to offset disrupted losses in our community? Or do we do nothing and let the opportunities go elsewhere?

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