How Can You Tell an Industry is Ready for Disruption?

How Can You Tell an Industry is Ready for Disruption?
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Personally, I think the term Disruption is overused, so let’s explore how we can use the warning signs in business, our team and even in the industry as an opportunity to stand out as leaders of substance and purpose.

The challenge should ever be to disrupt but to offer a better solution. Innovation is great when it takes us forward, yet not all innovation will lead to disruption.

Innovation for the sake of innovation can become just a costly exercise; this isn’t an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” platitude either. Many things ain’t broke but can be made better, so we need to be vigilant against complacency.

Let’s explore some key factors that may help in determining if an industry is ready for disruption and see how we can apply it to our lives, business, and career.

Symptom #1: Focus becomes Operational and Financial issues

From time to time, an industry becomes more focused on performance measures to the point that it forgets what it’s there for, the customer. Take the communications industry. An industry steeped in infrastructure. Along comes Skype a little over ten years back and starts to deliver low cost international communication using new technology (VOIP). It also started the trend of Video Conferencing that we so take for granted today.

The customer wanted reliable, low-cost communication. The Telco industry focused on their infrastructure and forgot about customer service.

Symptom #2: When all Solutions Seem the Same but not in the Customers Interest

When solutions look like milk, you can’t distinguish between them; the industry has a challenge. Where solutions are overly complicated, and potentially not serving the customer well, the warning lights should be on.

Many agency based industries have ignored advances in technology for as long as possible, only to be overrun by a competitor. Take the Taxi Industry Vs. Uber as a classic example.

Then there are the ‘Tension Points’ Mentioned by Luke Williams in his book, Disrupt: Think The Unthinkable To Spark Transformation In Your Business.

His four ‘Tension Points’ identified can spark the need for a change.

Symptom #3: Workarounds

Where customer dissatisfaction starts to be seen in their frustration of the solution offered and they start creating ‘workarounds’ that offer a complete solution. Individually they’re saying, “This isn’t good enough, but I don’t have a better solution just yet.”

As frustration grows, so does the likelihood of disruption in the form of a more complete, or completely different solution to the underlying problem.

Symptom #4: Values Conflict

From time to time, societies values change. Where business fails to keep up, it’s ripe for disruption. In the 90’s I was working for Greenpeace. At the time, the discussion around climate change was rare, and thinking of the environment was the last thing on the minds of the average person. Today, a very different mindset has emerged. Car Manufacturers who, in the 90’s did everything to maintain the status quo of a petrol-fuelled vehicle are racing to play catch-up to Tesla and others who’ve embraced clean energy vehicles.

As society values change, are the very things you believe holding you back?

Symptom #5: Inertia

Habits. We’re creatures of habit and change is something many try to avoid. Take Home loans in Australia. In the past, we were restricted by high exit costs as well as a reticence to change. The government legislated against the exit costs and created a new industry of mortgage brokers who would assist in the process of migrating from one lender to another. Competition for your loan was enhanced, and today many Australians will ‘shop around’ on a regular basis to keep their lender ‘Honest’.

In Conclusion

It’s always easier to argue for the status quo, it’s already there, yet maintaining what we’ve got is a shortcut to inevitable defeat. In a world that is changing ever more rapidly, change is the true constant and our ability to utilise initiative combined with technological advances will create opportunities for even the smallest of businesses.

As leaders, our role to inspire has never been more critical to the success of our organisations.

I’m not claiming that this process is comprehensive. It’s not supposed to be. It is, however, an effective way to start developing qualitative observations. This research is designed to be quick, informal, intuitive, and above all, accessible. It shouldn’t take you more than two or three days and, in many cases, it can be done in as little as two or three hours. You’ll know early on whether it’s working. If it is, you move on to the next step. If not, you can go back, tweak it, and do it again without losing much time or money.

Of course, you could go out and spend several months and tens of thousands of dollars on detailed demographic and psychographic market segmentation, focus groups, and quantitative studies. But, I think you’ll get much better information–particularly while you’re at the beginning of creating something new–by simply watching what people do and asking a few well-planned questions.

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