One counterintuitive approach is to innovate within the disrupted area.
For example, the makers of cameras are experiencing a well-chronicled disruption, thanks to the ability of smartphones to take basic digitized photographs. And yet, one of Fujifillm's responses was to innovate with a new line of cameras, called the X-series.
Since it was first introduced in 2011, Fujifilm has sold more than 700,000 X-series cameras, reports the New York Times. That sales figure, at a time when overall camera shipments are down 39% by volume, is impressive.
More to the point, Fujifilm's success with the X-series offers three lessons for executives facing prospective disruptions in their own industries:
1. Find the segment that still covets your product. In Fujifilm's case, there were plenty of old-school camera enthusiasts out there. Most of us know someone like this: The person who favors the craft and image quality of an actual camera to the point-and-click convenience of a smartphone. That person still wants a camera.
For that person, a smartphone is not an adequate replacement. That person could be a camera professional, seeking a lightweight device to use when not officially on the job. That person could also be what the Times called a prosumer--a consumer who spends "hundreds of dollars a year, or more, on camera gear."
2. Learn what that segment really wants. Fujifilm, notes the Times, "interviewed professional photographers about their preferences on everything from the pebbled plastic that covers parts of the camera to the color of the paint on the bodies. Almost a dozen shades of silver were considered. The goal was to give the cameras a certain gravitas."
In other words, Fujifilm learned that the camera's design and aura were important, even to performance-obsessed prosumers.
"When we were little, when we went into our father’s room or our grandfather's room, there was an important-looking camera on the shelf, and we were told not to touch it because it was valuable," the chief designer told the Times. "We wanted to create that look and feel."
To that end, the X-series cameras have actual dials controlling aperture and shutter speed, as opposed to purely digital settings. Moreover, the look of the X-series is an homage to the hallowed cameras of yesteryear: "With boxy, rectangular bodies and straight, cylindrical lenses, they resemble classic Leicas," writes the Times.
3. Stay true to your core mission and values. For Fujifilm, this was a devotion to quality images, refreshingly simple as that sounds. Had the company focused solely on innovating the exterior design of the cameras--ignoring enhancements to the "guts" and performance of the device--it would have (potentially) risked its reputation.
"Because of our heritage in film, picture quality was important," the marketing manager told the Times. Moreover, any compromise in performance might have disappointed the prosumer enthusiasts, for whom the whole point of owning a camera--that is, a separate device from one's phone--is the creation of visual excellence.