We’re living and working in a time of astounding technological change. The information revolution is causing massive disruption. This change brings an equal level of both risk and opportunity. And while individuals are being forced to adapt to these transformations, businesses are looking to align themselves to lead the way.
But what does it mean to be a market disrupter?
The term disruptive innovation was first coined by Harvard Business School professor and disruption expert Clayton Christenson, who defines it as:
“A process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market, and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”
In other words, this type of innovation creates an entirely new market; bringing improvements the existing market is not expecting, and consequently displacing an earlier technology.
Disruptive vs. Sustaining Innovation
It’s important to note that disruptive innovation differs from sustaining innovations in that sustaining innovations are advances in technology, whereas disruptive innovations instigate changes to markets. While sustaining innovations exist at the highest tiers of their markets, disruptive innovations come in at the bottom of the market.
A prime example of this is the personal computer, which disrupted the market originally built upon mainframe and mini computers. This innovation was disruptive because it attracted a whole new population of consumers, providing market access to a product that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or skill.
So, how can businesses achieve disruptive innovation?
It’s no secret the business models organizations are working with today are already fundamentally different from those used five years ago. How can you set your business up to stay ahead of the curve five years from now?
1. Plan for change before it transpires.
Market disruptors are proactively seeking opportunities for innovation. They understand the importance of investing time in strategic environmental scanning. They recognize the fact that the future is unlikely to be anything resembling the past, and therefore take measures to understand both the trends and the prospective influencers on the future of the organization. While nearly all leaders perform some level of scanning within their organizations every day, market disruptors look to develop a formal and systematic process that is focused around a particular interest or critical decision the company faces.
2. Foster a culture that invites change.
Innovation requires taking chances and challenging the processes you think you know with certainty. It means taking risks and breaking the rules – behaviors the majority of companies aren’t particularly good at. Traditionally, organizations prefer making rules and minimizing risk. Be prepared to look critically at your company climate: does it welcome employees who have the potential to make a difference in areas related to change? It’s important to ensure you are not only hiring the right people, but you’re engaging staff to help inspire innovation at every level.
3. Develop your leaders as disruptive agents.
In order for companies to adopt a truly disruptive model, there must be complete commitment from senior leadership. Your key leaders must not only be aware of transformative approaches, but they are committed to translating these ideas into concrete actions. They must understand how to facilitate the dialogue around disruptive innovation in a way that gets their team excited about change. And, most importantly, they must put a system in place, which can be used to measure progress along the way.
The businesses we work with at ID are a lot like us. They’re crowd-pushers. They’re risk-takers. They’re ready to break the status quo. Do you have a disruptive flame burning inside you?