What is digital technology really disrupting?


The uptake of digital services by consumers on phone, tablet, and TV is disrupting companies, organisations and patterns of work.

Digital is upsetting the status quo in surprising ways; whilst the superheroes of the age of digital disruption are often seen to be young professionals, the populations of the developed world – who are using and ultimately paying for the technology development – are ageing.

Between the real and virtual worlds, have two demographics ever been so far apart?

Who’s going to school who to gain sustainable competitive advantage in a disruption based business environment? Will the present day disruptors, in time, become established businesses and resist the next wave of disruption longer than the last?

Or will a chasm so deep develop that the ‘new kids’ will drift away and reside in a digital world of constant disruption, whilst the ‘old guys and gals’ fritter and waste away clinging to static business models?


Generation Digital – Join in the debate


Generation Digital – Worlds Apart? Is a YAA Network Event hosted by Ernst and Young in London on the 27th April, giving York Alumni members the opportunity to get involved with this debate.

The event promises to provoke and explore where digital technology is causing paradigm shifts and whether an ageing population is a challenge, or the biggest opportunity yet?

How can everyone work together to bring the benefits of change to every Digital generation?


Disrupted or not?


  • UK FTSE 100 CEOs: Average age is 52.8 (complete data set) (CITY AM)


CEO key stats





  • It is estimated that, by 2030, 19% of the US population will be over 65 – roughly the same proportion that currently own an iPhone. And by 2050, there will be one retired person for very two that are in work (BBC)
  • There are ageing global populations in Europe and China, while indication are the US will remain “flatter” (due to immigration policy)
  • It’s claimed the tech sector, notably in Silicon Valley, is subject to ageism rather than being a meritocracy


What next?


  • Does the generations ‘not getting each other’ risk leading to not trusting one another and a slowing of progress?
  • With the average age of a UK FTSE 100 CEO over 52 (it is similar for S&P 500 CEOs) are decisions in the hands of the best informed, or those fending off the progress that disruption may bring?
  • Will the 40-something founders of The Wall Street Journal’s billion-dollar-club list build the right experience to reach the average age of their FTSE 100 counterparts and stay in post – or are they burning themselves out by acquiring power too soon?


New money or old power?


So, how do the superheroes and the blue chips compare?


For: Start-Up advantages

  • Lean mentality – identify target market at speed, reach out and address fast
  • Rapid Product Prototyping – whip it up, fail fast, learn faster, flip it out via a community of users based on trust
  • Engaging digital – crowdfunding platform raises fast awareness, website is landing page for launching betas, feedback in mobile enabled environment
  • All flash, exciting, interest generating, looks promising, lots of early adoption


Against: Start-Up disadvantages

  • Younger generation doesn’t have experience of building sustainable product experiences
  • They leap from one concept/idea to another without finishing the first ones thoroughly – fail fast might lead to fail permanently as change-fatigue sets in
  • Long term adoption and use peter out too quickly – no sustainable, regenerative sales (recurring subscriptions over time that financiers value so deeply)
  • Beyond ‘something disruptive and new,’ what keeps people’s interest in terms of boring things like utility, pragmatism, depth of capability, long term trust?


For: Mature Company advantages

  • Substantial capital and resources – steady hands in control
  • Nurtured customer loyalty, brand depth and connectedness over long periods of time can ride over rough patches – they can afford to fail every once in a while
  • Mature, grown-up sales and marketing capabilities which appeal to consumers with wealth
  • Stable R&D and Test to consider things thoroughly before going to market


Against: Mature Company disadvantages

  • Slow – bureaucratic, political, silo’d working. Not good at operating multiple, cross-functional work streams simultaneously to engage with new ideas
  • From ideation to concept to internal pitch to budgeting to team assignment to experimentation to test to consumer – may take many years to get a product to market
  • Hierarchical thinking – queries go up the chain to the top. They come back fettered with politics, bias, rules, frameworks before they work their way to the ‘doers’
  • Methods for understanding the customer are slow, sloppy, clouded by layers of interaction and interpretation


Join the debate at the York Aumni Generation Digital event. Hosted by an experienced panel it promises to be a lively debate, as well a great learning and networking opportunity.


Take a look at the panel line-up:

Lawrence De'Ath Chair for Generation Digital

Lawrence De’Ath, CHAIR

Senior Partner at Digital Works Consulting and a highly regarded business leader and product and service development expert, Lawrence has over 20 years’ experience leading teams across the consumer, industrial and government sectors to deliver innovative and successful business and technology solutions. A York alumnus, Lawrence graduated in 1989 with a degree in Electronic Engineering.

Holly Brockwell, PANELLIST

Holly Brockwell, PANELLIST

Holly graduated from York in 2007 with a BA in English Language and Linguistic Science and has since become the Founder and Editor of Gadgette; the UK’s biggest technology and lifestyle publication written by and for women. Holly had been writing about tech for the best part of a decade and recently won Woman of the Year for founding the site and giving talented female journalists a voice in a traditionally male industry.[/one_half_last]



As the Advisory Manager at EY, Jamie focuses on helping large organisations to better understand and prepare for digital disruption. Jamie is also Founder and leads the strategic development of EY’s first start-up accelerator programme; the EY Start-up Challenge, aimed at bringing together clients with innovative technology start-ups to solve businesses digital world problems.[/fusion_builder_column_inner]

Jeff Wellstead, PANELLIST

Jeff Wellstead, PANELLIST

Jeff is currently Partner at Digital Works Consulting and leader of the Strategy and Leadership for Digital People. He has a 25 year track record as a talent and innovation accelerator for both mature businesses and SME tech companies. Able to create actionable strategies that realise company vision, Jeff effectively introduces innovative cultures that support the revolutionary pace of disruptive product and service creation.[/one_half_last]

Ross Sleight, PANELLIST

Ross Sleight, PANELLIST

As Chief Strategy Officer for Somo, Ross advises global brands on how to best harness the potential of mobile technologies. A frequent keynote speaker at global industry conferences and a founding member of six digital businesses including Virgin Games, Ross has over 20 years’ experience in the digital industry and is widely respected for his foresight, vision, and the quality of his strategic thinking in the tech world.[/fusion_builder_column_inner][/fusion_builder_row_inner]