The first thing to remember about disruption is that it's a two-way street. Either you are the disrupter, or you are being disrupted.
This means I mean that if you aren't making things happen for you, or your company, then someone is probably going to put you out of business right under your nose with a lower price point and better business plan.
This is true for every company, in every industry.
Recently I was speaking with Aaron Pierson, Digital Strategy Director of Vitals Agency, who specializes in disruption and he was sharing his thoughts on this topic.
He said "Right now, at this very moment, either your company is disrupting the marketplace, or you're actively being disrupted. This isn't meant to be fear-based, but it's the reality of the situation. Between the pace at which technology advances and the rate at which ideas are generated, disruption is truly a natural cause of the times. If you're comfortable in your business, you need to be thinking about who knows your comfortable and how they are planning to make you uncomfortable. There is a constant ebb and flow of disruption and being disrupted."
According to Aaron here are eleven things every CEO needs to know about being disrupted, or better yet, about being the disrupter.
Why do companies get disrupted?
The short answer is that they are too comfortable. Like the pre-Uber taxi operators, they simply didn't see it coming. They didn't think to look around the corner or adopt the advancing technology, and they got bombed by innovation. The long answer is the following:
1 - Intimidation of new technology
Companies that are intimidated by new technology, or simply ignorant on how to use it, get easily disrupted. If you're the CEO and you don't have time to explore something new, ensure that someone in your company is at least looking into it. It's better to know a little bit about a new technology than nothing and get blind-sided.
2 - Shift in consumer behavior
Consumer behavior, like technology, is constantly evolving; like technology. People are consuming more content on their mobile devices than they are on their TV, computers, and radio combined. The activities you're doing now in your business should be different than they were last year because things change that fast. What worked a year ago isn't going to work the same today, tomorrow, or next year. Evolve or die.
3 - The inability to be agile
A big problem with larger companies is that it takes way too long to make decisions and implement them. You have to be able to move quickly in order to remain relevant. Become an early adopter of new technology. processes, etc. so that you are always ahead of the curve and looking towards the horizon of innovation.
4 - Lack of talent
Hiring or working with people because of the cost is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Don't hire a slew of free or cheap interns that are just getting their feet wet because it's cheaper. Invest in your company through talent and go for quality. Hire people who are better than you at their trade. Think creatively and strategically.
5 - Lack of alignment between leadership
There are many ways to get to one common goal. Getting all the decision makers in alignment with the goal and the process is incredibly important. Whether it's a board of directors, high-level executives or just your business partners, everyone needs to be thinking in the same direction, in the same timeframe, towards the same goal. Being disjointed here is the kiss of death.
How do companies disrupt themselves?
As it goes, you're either disrupting or being disrupted so knowing what it takes to disrupt internally can help put you on a trajectory to innovate from within.
6 - Be user-centric/customer-centric
"As the business owner, you're the judge of your business. But at the end of the day, the consumer is your jury and executioner. The consumer holds your fate." If the decisions you're making aren't in line with your customer's needs, then they don't matter.
Understanding what they need, what makes them buy, what makes them return, and what keeps them coming back is being the customer or user centric. It's all about the customer.
7 - "Go big or go home" mindset
You can't operate in a mindset of scarcity. This inhibits the creative process and handicaps your entire flow. You need to dive all the way in to measure the results. Take calculated risks and invest in them fully. Baby steps are for babies, not for brands.
8 - Stay agile and lean
Keeping things in-house and ensuring that you've hired experts ensures that you've got the tools and people you need right under your roof. Just as I mentioned above, if you're too big, you can't move quickly or change direction on a dime. You've got to give your company the space to move how it needs to move, when it needs to move.
9 - Experiment, and experiment again
Experimentation is something you can do that doesn't actually get implemented. Pricing models, headlines, marketing tactics. Think outside the box and do something that other people in the industry aren't already doing. Typically a creative and innovative pricing model is one of the fastest ways to disrupt.
10 - Find creative thinkers, give them authority, and find the right talent
Encourage innovation and transformative thinking from your employees. Ask them what they need to be able to work better and what would make their job easier. Change starts from within, and these people know more than you do about the specific vertical (and that's the point). Empower them and see what they can create.
11 - Encourage continual education
Go out and learn something new. Give your employees access to webinars, conferences, courses, and resources that will fuel advancement. As quickly as things change, it is absolutely vital to be continuously learning. Find out what's hot and get educated on what people are doing right now. You won't get the same results from doing the same thing.
Invest in yourself, invest in your team and you'll be able to come up with innovative ways to disrupt your current business model. Bring more value to the marketplace and ask yourself "how can this be done better?". If you focus on disrupting from within, chances are you'll prevent disruption from the outside.
In today's business world there are only two options: be the disrupter or get disrupted. Only one of those options has a rosy future.
If you follow Aaron's suggestions your company can look to take on the role of disrupter and put your business in a position where it will have more chance to thrive than just struggle to survive.
At the tail-end of my conversation with Aaron I had a brief moment to get a passing thought from Co-Founder and Creative Director, Aiden Fishbein. I'll leave you with it:
"The hard truth is this; 5% growth year after year, great as that is, won't keep your company safe forever. In 10 years 80% of Fortune 500 companie will churn out and be replaced, most likely by kids on couches with laptops. You can never afford getting too comfortable. The irony is that disruption by nature is uncomfortable, be it internal or external. This process takes guts, but it's worth it...because survival is worth it."