The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘disruption’ as a disturbance, or problems that interrupt an event, activity or process. In modern terms, it’s defined more simply as the change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models affect the value proposition of existing goods and services.
The truth is that its mere definition can strike fear and elation into senior executives, depending on which end of the disruption stick they are holding, and break the most confident and entrenched market leaders.
It’s not about being trendy or cool, as these monikers only last for a finite period, but if a new technology or disruptive service hits the market and ticks the boxes of both practicality and price, even the most trusted brands will suffer and their market share ebb away accordingly.
It’s up to organisations to stay sharp and continue to innovate their own products and services, while all the time monitoring emerging technologies to not take their eye off the ball.
Even when taking this in to account, one of the biggest barriers I have seen within large organisations is that even once an external disruptive influence has been identified and a solution defined, time isn’t given to the person or team to implement it properly to stave off the competition.
If you don’t allocate time to these types of employees for such activities, they will quickly migrate to organisations that do or even start their own to compete with you.
The oft-mentioned words of, “it will never catch on” or “we’ve got plenty of time before it claims any serious market share” are immortalised around some of the objects such as the internet and Apple’s iPhone, which we use so readily today. Those now extinct organisations who failed to catch on quickly enough are now only remembered for these ill-timed statements, and the quality of how not to do it case studies at leading business schools.
Companies like Netflix, which owns a large proportion of the streaming market, are savvy enough to know that having initially been key disruptors of their own market, they must constantly innovate and develop new services to maintain, let alone grow, their market position.
Almost all industries are now ripe for disruption, with the position of market leader now somewhat meaningless with the fluidity and emergence of new technology happening almost daily. Even regulated markets such as insurance and financial services are being disrupted, with smaller more agile startups providing meaningful and innovative disruption.
In the current era where the world’s largest taxi firm, Uber, owns no cars, the world’s largest accommodation company, Airbnb, owns no accommodation, and the world’s most valuable retailer, Alibaba, carries no stock, you could say that the commercial vista is unrecognisable from only a few years ago.
We are in a fascinating time where the boundless leaps technology is making, and the complex products and solutions it now allows us to create, are infinite. Far beyond what we could have imagined.
Key to all of this is the rise of consumerisation and the thirst for digital services that make once awkward activities, such as banking and shopping, all capable of being completed without ever leaving your house.
It’s up to organisations to keep pace with these disruptors and emerging technologies, and adapt their products and services accordingly to meet the changing demands and needs of their customers. Those that don’t will be consigned to the past and rightly disrupted by those that can!