18 Oct How to Transform Your Business Into a Disruptive Innovator
What elevates a business from success to greatness? Your company may be turning a profit without a hitch, and you’ve got a good foothold in the market. But what if you want more?
When people think of great enterprises, they think of businesses that didn’t just thrive. They think of companies that changed the playing field. Iconic brands opened possibilities people scarcely believed possible and offered solutions that shattered preconceived notions.
A great business doesn’t just change the way their industry operated; they changed the way people lived.
They change the world.
These companies created disruptive technologies.
What is Disruptive Technology
Disruptive technologies are innovation so advanced and revolutionary that they topple existing market trendsetters. These technologies affect their industry so much that they cause shifts in partnerships, make certain processes redundant, and even cripple powerful enterprises.
The most disruptive technologies don’t just change the game; they open a completely new board. These innovations expand the realm of human possibility. Sometimes it’s through revolutionizing a previous process, and sometimes it’s by finding a new way to use old materials. But it’s often because they introduced something new and undreamt of that fills a niche in society.
Disruptive technologies can be a blessing, but sometimes they pose a threat to your business or an entire industry. The upheaval that follows the introduction of certain disruptive technology triggers costly changes to your industry’s system or shifts the allegiance of your customers. But after the shock wears off from the displacement of an existing approach or idea, disruptive innovation reinvents commerce.
In this scenario, you have the option to adapt to the disruption or to create an innovative disruption of your own.
Why You Should be the Disruptor
You may want to play it safe and stick to the sidelines rather than become a disruptor. But greatness requires taking a few risks. But what payoffs can you expect when you become a disruptive innovator?
- The market adapts to you, not the other way around. As a disruptive innovator, you get to dictate how the market behaves instead of constantly watching out for the next wave of changes.
For example, Google wasn’t the first internet search engine, but through their relentless improvements, they became the most popular. With their technological and financial superiority, Google can tell businesses what kind of content they should be uploading to appear on their results page. And the best part? Businesses listen to them because their innovation is powerful. Everyone, from multimillion hedge funds in New York to reliable SEO companies in Denver, adapts to what Google wants.
- You get to be a pioneer. The most disruptive technologies are unique and innovative products, which means they are the first of their kind and unlikely to have any direct competition.
A great example would be Netflix. For years, the digital streaming service had few competitors to worry about, and it capitalized on this advantage. Netflix managed to become a household name with multiple popular shows under its banner. These show not only made the brand, but they’re also helping the company stay competitive amid a surge of other streaming services.
- Becoming a disruptive innovator can be lucrative. Disruptive technologies are successful because they tap into a public demand that other companies ignore. Your company could enter new heights of prosperity and profitability if you solve problems that competitors overlooked. If you combine this with an intelligent business strategy, you can guarantee your company’s ascent to greatness.
Consider Amazon’s rise. The e-commerce platform started by providing a cheap way to deliver books. By taking advantage of their status as an innovator and managing their resources through shrewd decision-making, Amazon has expanded into a multinational conglomerate that made more than $72 billion in sales during the last quarter of 2018.
Aside from the economic advantages that come with becoming a disruptive innovator, it’s also an interesting challenge. Not every company can take on larger and more established enterprises and walk away from the victor. But disruptive innovators possess the upper edge needed to do so. Disruptive companies are Davids to bigger corporation’s Goliaths, the underdog in the story. And we all know how that particular parable ends.
To become the next disruptive innovator, you’re going to have to change a few things about your business.
What will it take to turn your company into a business that shakes up the economy and the status quo? Do you need to sink a ton of your time and resources into developing a brand-new, high-tech gadget or service? Perhaps.
How to Transform Your Business into a Disruptor?
Before you start brainstorming to become the next Netflix or Amazon, here’s the real secret: change your mindset.
The most important part of being a disruptive innovator is adopting a new way to approach your industry. At their core, disruptors really only need to do two things:
- Find an unanswered problem and solve it. This is one half of the formula that creates a disruptive innovator. Although you can settle for vastly improving a previous process, the greatest disruptive technologies found a want or a need that went unanswered. Look at the invention of the airplane. People have been frustrated by their inability to take to the air for centuries, and the desire to fly has long been ingrained in the human imagination.
The invention of the airplane literally changed civilization because of the far-reaching effects of solving this desire. Airplanes altered the way people delivered goods, travelled the world, and waged wars. If you want to change the game, find players who have been ignored. Your niche might not be as grand as the dream to fly, but people do have unfulfilled needs that can have massive impacts on society when answered. Find these unresolved problems and use them to guide your company.
- Always keep the latest technology in mind. Disruptive technologies are, by definition, cutting-edge. Technology is the other half of the formula for disruptive innovation. Granted, not every technological advancement will be the launchpad of a new field of commerce. But they’re more likely to come from a company using the latest technology to solve a long-time problem.
Uber is a fine example of this union. The ride-sharing app solved a problem that has plagued people for years (find an easy way to secure a ride) and solved it with the latest technology (internet-capable smartphones). Uber is now a recognized global enterprise because of how seamless these two components fit together. The success of some of the biggest companies today stems from this perfect combination. Netflix, Amazon, and Airbnb all answer problems with digital solutions.
Once you’ve discovered your disruptive innovation, don’t rest just yet. For starters, innovation is a lifelong project. For another, a revolutionary idea is worthless without the business savvy and intelligent decision-making to support it.
A business that created a disruptive innovation is still a business, after all. You may be the first one to come up with an idea, but that doesn’t mean you’ve conquered the race. Another company might develop the same idea, and with the right strategy, it could bring it to the market before you do.
Another key consideration of disruption is the economic and social implications of your innovation.
The Impact of Disruptive Technologies
The repercussions of unleashing disruptive technology extend well beyond the commercial and economic spheres and into human society at large. Like a lot of technological advancements, they are sometimes both a blessing and a curse.
Disruptive technology sometimes leads to commercial processes and services becoming obsolete. This causes mass unemployment as people’s jobs become redundant. Just look at how much e-mail technology has crippled postal services. The advent of Netflix and streaming services shuttered Blockbuster in less than a decade. The video-rental chain once had approximately 9,000 locations before dropping to a paltry 50 in 2015.
Self-driving cars are now the pet-projects of car companies and other multinational corporations, including Amazon, Apple, and Uber. When they have perfected their efforts, it could jeopardize the livelihoods of everyone who earns their keep from ridesharing, not to mention taxi and rental car services.
Thankfully, the creation of new spheres of commerce from disruptive technologies opens new job titles and opportunities. Social media platforms are a great example. The creation of these platforms created occupations that no one could have anticipated. Social media marketers, social media influencers, YouTube stars, and a plethora of other professions originate from the possibilities that Facebook and similar sites opened.
As a disruptive innovator, one of your responsibilities is to monitor and mitigate any negative effects your innovation has on society. Becoming aware of the probability of these impacts is a great way to start thinking of solutions. Disruptive technologies exist because you want to fix a problem, not make life more complicated.
Most business owners want their enterprises to become powerhouses, but not everyone has the right mind-set. To make a business into an enterprise that disrupts the market, you’ll need determination, curiosity, and the desire to help other people. It’s that desire to solve a problem or fulfil a desire that has plagued people for so long that is the secret to dreaming up innovations that change the world.
Dan Smink is the founder of C1 Partners, a Denver SEO company that helps small to medium enterprises with their digital marketing strategy. Dan comes from a background of 20 years in business leadership and has a track record of helping businesses achieve million-dollar revenue values. He is an active community leader and contributor to Forbes.com’s Agency Council spreading the word on how digital strategies can make a positive impact on today’s businesses.
You may connect with him on LinkedIn.