Taxis, Uber, asymmetric information and disruption

I was in a cab headed from an airport to an office I hadn’t been to before.  Gave the driver the address and then sat back and had to make a few phone calls.  About 3 minutes into the drive he passes me back his phone to type my destination address into.  I thought this was a bit odd but went with it.  About 15 minutes into the drive I pull up the location on my own phone to double check where I’m going.  I happened to notice we had passed the exit.  Autocorrect had struck down my address input into a strange phone.

This situation got me thinking about the power of Uber.  When I call a car they have the same information that I have.  I see where they are planning to go and the route that they are recommended to take.  There is symmetric information between driver and passenger.  In a traditional cab I am full of uncertainty:  Did he understand my address?  Does he know current traffic conditions?  Am I taking the most effective route?

Asymmetric information is useful for legacy, incumbent industries.  They get to hold data back and leverage it however they see fit for their customers (I’m looking at you CRE).  Symmetric information opens up new fields and ways of delighting the customer.  It removes the big concerns, allows for instant evaluation of performance and puts more power back with the customer to make judgment calls.

Moving from asymmetric to symmetric information access is by definition a disruptive change.  But one that some competitor will eventually do if you don’t.

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