The Disruptors

Disruption is now a positive business strategy

If you can cast your mind back to your school days, for some that will be easier than others, you will more than likely recall the one or more pupils in your class that would be given the label of ‘disruptor’

Their antics, would quite literally disrupt the tried, tested and proven methods of teaching and learning. Disruption was seen in the classroom as a very bad thing. 

In today's business environment, the label of disruptor is now the polar opposite to its humble classroom origins and is a business label that is worn with a sense of pride. 

Disruption is currently going on across a wide variety of industries, take Uber for example, the ride hailing service, it has disrupted completely the long and established Taxi businesses around the globe. This disruption didn’t just occur, but was in fact the result of truly innovative thinking. Uber decided that the current system of obtaining a Taxi, by standing on the side of the street and flagging it down was woefully out of date. They looked at the technology that was currently available, such as smartphones laden with GPS and payment systems, and that there was an abundance of self-employed ‘private’ Taxi drivers out there and brought it all together into what was described by the market as disruptive. This new model has forever changed the entire market for ride hailing.

…This disruption didn’t just occur, but was in fact the result of truly innovative thinking…

It doesn’t take much to find additional examples of modern business disruption, Air B&B, Netflix and Tesla. All of whom have decided that the established norm was no longer acceptable and they had a fire in their collective bellies about improving elements of life that were well established, through the application of new technology. 

Disruption itself is actually the by-product of rethinking how a problem can be solved and then applying technology to it. All industries can be rethought, reimagined if there is the attitude and desire to do so. It doesn’t have to be just new industries or those seen as cool and exciting. 

In fact, disruption first finds its foothold in frustration. Consider how the aforementioned disruptors have actually changed, beyond recognition, the industries and markets that they have moved into. All came about from how the dominant business models at the time had either become complacent, by not keeping up with customer expectations, or had not adopted new tools, techniques and technologies to enable a far richer and gratifying experience for the customer.

…the dominant business models at the time had become complacent…

It would appear that if frustration occurs, then it is through the application of innovation that leads us to positive disruption. 

This force of disruptive change is not limited to the traditional high tech industries but can be undertaken by anybody, in any industry. For example, the continuing rise of artisanal style food shops and cafes has come about as the customers, wanted a greater awareness of where their food was coming from, how it was being made and in some cases a more ethical and ‘in season’ approach to consumption. Pre-packed plastic wrapped sandwiches just didn’t cut it any more. Many of us will now see such independent establishments, starting to spring up just on the outskirts, where the rent is cheaper, in all our towns and cities and once discovered going back to the normal ‘high street’ offerings is challenging. 

In the entertainment world, the new powerhouses are the likes of Netflix, a company whose origins were in ‘DVDs for rent by mail’. Before long and with the right application of technology they would start to provide content in streaming form. Although this seems commonplace now, back then the traditional broadcasters decided what consumers watched and when, anybody wanting to deviate from this had to invest in some home recording facility. Netflix correctly anticipated that consumers wanted content on their terms, entire seasons of TV shows in one hit. They have made the content king and the consumer in charge of the schedule. This has totally disrupted the entertainment marketplace with many on the inside concluding that streaming, catch up services, subscriptions and other models that are collectively referred to as ‘non-linear broadcasting’ is the future. 

What all this means is that disruption is now a positive business strategy. Things that have ‘always been this way’ can be negated overnight by the innovators who have this disruptive mind-set. They have no fear of the established players in the markets they decide to enter, just a desire to make things better and alleviate their collective frustrations.

…many more industries and markets will suffer from disruption in the coming years…

With the increasingly powerful forces of democratisation that technology and its interconnected nature provides, many more industries and markets will suffer from disruption in the coming years. Education systems, political systems, social and healthcare systems are all ripe for change, putting the needs and wants of the consumer first.

So maybe those children back in the class who were labelled as disruptors, were in fact innovators, they were frustrated with the system that they were being offered and knew it could be done better. I guess we just didn’t realise it at the time.

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