Today’s San Francisco Chronicle includes this article about friction between Uber and the company’s drivers. This got me thinking about the possibility that Uber will have to disrupt itself in order to stay competitive, possibly not too long from now.
Uber and competitors such as Lyft and Sidecar are taking market share from traditional taxi services by providing a product that outperforms traditional taxis in three key value dimensions: convenience, reliability, and predictability (and, you could argue, coolness). When I need a ride, I can get out my phone, open the Uber app, and immediately know where the cars are that can pick me up and how long it will take for one to get here. It sure beats waiting on the curb and praying for good luck, or calling yellow cab and hoping the dispatcher understood me.
In order to make the service work, Uber needs drivers, and the Chronicle article illustrates that getting a network of high quality drivers will require skillful execution. For Uber to thrive, one of the things the company is going to need to get good at is creating and maintaining this network of drivers. It is essential to their success.
But will it eventually become irrelevant? In our chapter The Five Moves in the Innovator’s Playbook we describe how Netflix had to disrupt itself in order to transition from a business powered by postal mail DVD distribution to one based on streaming media. One of their core competencies, an amazingly fast, super automated method of getting DVDs by mail to just about anywhere in 2 days (or less!), had become irrelevant. It was a cornerstone of their success, until suddenly it wasn’t.
Is Uber looking at a similar self-disruption, when it transitions from it’s driver network to self-driving vehicles? How far away is that day? And when it does get here, how much will we tip our robot drivers?
– Matt Brocchini