WHAT DISRUPTORS CAN TEACH
Disruption: it’s usually a script in which an innovative upstart overthrows an established firm. While it’s nothing new — fossil fuels disrupted the whale oil industry a few centuries ago — it’s now happening at lightning speed. Technology is partly responsible: As computer processing power grows exponentially, the realm of what’s possible broadens. Technology might be indirectly responsible in other ways, such as improving communication and making information available to the disrupting forces.
Offense Vs. Defense
Arguably, it may come down to offense vs. defense mentalities. The 800-pound gorillas of business are operating on a defense model: They’ve got lots to risk, so they can’t escape their vested interest in the status quo. Disruptors are on the offense: They’re smaller and nimbler, so it’s easier for them to change tracks.
In a recent article on ChiefExecutive.net, editor emeritus J. P. Donlon considers the dynamics of disruption, and observes that the key to success for incumbent companies is their willingness to disrupt themselves. Digging into existing models and strategies didn’t work for Blockbuster — disruptors like Netflix were rewriting the playbook.
It’s also worthwhile to examine the example of counter-intuitive disruptors: those who disrupt by returning to tradition. An over-simple illustration: Watchmaking was once the domain of a skilled echelon of craftspeople. Technology turned watch-making into a mass production factory endeavor, and eventually, companies like Shinola took the process full circle, hand assembling expensive timepieces in Detroit.
Have the Courage to Disrupt Yourself
Instead of trying to protect your traditional way of doing things, ask whether you can serve the customer better by disrupting yourself, and seizing the offense instead of playing defense. One of the great powers of social media is the window it offers on the customer experience. By actively surveying customers’ perspectives, you can understand their needs and what they perceive as shortcomings in the existing model.
Author Donlan invites you to ask yourself these questions:
- When was the last time you rolled-out a new product?
- When was the last time your business embraced change and did something innovative?
- Does your organization focus more on process than success?
- Are your management and executive ranks void of youth?
- When was the last time you entered a new market?
- Are any of your executives thought leaders?
- When was the last time you sought out a strategic partner to exploit a market opportunity?
- Do you settle for just managing your employees or do you inspire them to become innovators?
- Has your business embraced social media?
- When was the last time your executive team brought in some new blood by recruiting a major player star?
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