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How to Rock the (Industry) Boat Start by asking, 'what are the pain points in my life, and what can I fix in my customers' lives?'

By Jennifer Wang

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

David Croslin: The customer is king.
David Croslin: The customer is king.
Photo© John Johnston

Q: I want to shake things up in my industry. Can a small business be disruptive?

A: The secret to disruptive innovation is simple: Focus on your customers.

A lot of companies will say they do, but the truth is they are stuck focusing on themselves, says David Croslin, former chief technologist at Hewlett-Packard and author of Innovate the Future: A Radical New Approach to IT Innovation. "They end up trying to please themselves or beat competitors," he says, "rather than considering their customers."

Startups, for example, can squander resources by hiring staff before it's necessary, or even spending too much energy thinking up a flashy name. "One time I got this call from a company that poured $40 million into a product," says Croslin, now a market trends consultant in Colorado Springs, Colo. "And then they asked me, "Where do you think we can sell this?' They were too busy looking at the wrong thing."

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