Disruption was the buzzword for 2016 in business schools, the media, and most social circles.
Large, bureaucratic organizations yearned to be more agile, whilst smaller flat organizations relished in the hope that they might be the next Uber or Airbnb of their industry. To disrupt was to dominate.
Amidst the hype of being anti-establishment and non-conformist, it’s worthwhile to remind ourselves that being disruptive in and of itself offers little to no value.
Uber may have disrupted the transport industry but they did so by creating value to customers in the form of on-demand transport. Airbnb likewise strived to connect empty spaces in people’s homes with those seeking short-term accommodation– thereby creating value.
Likewise, if your aspiring unicorn idea wants to disrupt for example the fast food sector, you need to identify the value proposition to your customer base that will lead to mass adoption. Delivering fast food dressed as super heroes may be disruptive but does not really add value– albeit entertaining no doubt.
Here is a basic checklist to help guide your disruptive spirit:
1. Who are the red herrings in my industry It’s safe to say that the majority of broad industry categories have either seen the rise of a disruptor or experienced the introduction of one. Determine whether your disruption will have enough impact to make yourself stand out as the disruptor in your industry. Disruption is about dominating an industry, not merely occupying a market sector.
2. Disruption can be mainstream That’s right. I’m sure you can think of a dozen industries in which offering exceptional customer service will be a massive disruption to the industry norms. Or what about offering 100% money back guarantee– but actually offering it? As consumers we’ve grown increasingly skeptical of companies claiming to be the best thing next to sliced bread. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to disrupt by simply doing what you promise your customers. Be fresh, not stale.
3. If it ain’t broke, break it, and then fix it If you’re a purist, then look at what paradigms exits in your industry that are ready to be challenged. Throw yourself in the deep end with an ambitious notion, kick the hornets’ nest and see what anomaly occurs as a result. Don’t throw a pebble, throw a boulder and see what ripples you create.
Perhaps it would be advisable to strip back disruption and call it what it really is– visionary leadership guided by a spirit of true innovation. To this end individuals like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos are the quintessential disruptors. They were disrupting before it even had a catchy name. That is the essence of the entrepreneur– the often solitary voice who notices an enormous pivot point to change the way business is done and how we conduct our daily lives.