“If you don’t cannibalise yourself, someone else will” – Steve Jobs

The Innovators Are Coming For You

There isn’t any industry today safe from the threat of implosion from agile, adaptive new technologies and service approaches. We’ve seen it happen already: think Nokia, Kodak and Blockbuster. All examples of market leaders who refused to acknowledge the innovative and customer focused startups quietly shaking their industries at the core. They held tight to their tried-and-tested business models, stuck their heads in the sand and collapsed as a result.

No matter how strong your existing business model is, if you remain too attached to what worked yesterday...or even what’s working nicely today, you’re going to be up-ended by a competitor who’s doing the same thing with a more innovative, customer focused and future-proofed approach.
What Does Disruption Really Mean?

When we think of ‘disruption’, it’s tempting to assume that ‘cheaper’ ‘faster’ ‘better’ services and products are always at the core. Not necessarily. It’s certainly not essential to deliver inferior products or services to replace high quality offerings.
Cheaper, Faster or Better? Not Always

The theory of disruptive innovation and the term ‘disruptive technology’ was defined by Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, in his 1997 best-selling book ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma.’ He used the term to compare the two types of technical innovation: sustaining and disruptive. In short, Christensen defines a disruptive product as either addressing a market that previously couldn’t be served – a new market disruption. Or, it offers a cheaper, more convenient or simpler alternative to an existing product – a low-end disruption.

This means you have a choice. Of course, offering low-end disruption by adapting existing or delivering new services for the budget conscious segment of your market is an option. But also is identifying a previously unserved market segment and offering them a tailored, high quality product to meet their specific needs.

Disrupt or Die: How to Embrace Disruption

Embracing disruption requires an outward and forward-looking vision. Be prepared to be agile and aware, able to react quickly to changing market conditions and have the ability to roll out new services or products quickly and smoothly. Understand that innovation is a long-term strategy rather than a quick fix, for the market will simply not wait.

Appreciate that the best innovation comes from your workers themselves. Foster a disruptive culture and encourage workers to reinvent their own solutions. Be customer-centered. The importance of striking a balance between innovation and being sensitive to the needs of your established customer base is paramount. Essentially, you must become a master of flexibility to recognise and react to the movement of your market.

In Conclusion

Change and disruption is occurring across the entire business world, whether you react or not. As Mark Zuckerberg famously stated: ‘If we don’t develop the thing that will kill Facebook, someone else will.’ You have a choice: Stay where you are and ignore the innovations that will inevitably threaten your business, or join the race. Learn how to disrupt from within and maintain your dominance well into the future.


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