Scared of being disrupted? Me, too!

Does the thought of being “disrupted” keep you up at night? If so, you are not alone among business owners.

At Vancouver’s recent TractionForce 2016 event, Greg Malpass, CEO of Traction on Demand, confirmed that most CEOs are scared of disruption. Under the banner “Every company is becoming a tech company,” Malpass talked about several industries that have continued looking in the rearview mirror, while others have been looking forward—and using technology to adapt and innovate. Think: taxicabs (Uber), hotels (AirBnB), music (Spotify) and movies on demand (Netflix). Interesting, don’t you think?

Photo: K. Sharp

Photo: K. Sharp


Disruptive Innovation

Twenty years ago, Harvard Business Professor Clay Christensen authored The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Christensen’s disruption theory spawned the term “disruptive innovation.” It means when market leaders are “disrupted” by newcomers at the low-end of the market. And, as the newcomer improves its product or service over time, the upstart eventually upends the incumbent—or, the newcomer creates an entirely new market where none existed before.

The Innovator’s Dilemma has been lauded as one of the most influential business books, garnering numerous awards over the years. However, the disruption theory is not without its critics: challenging Christensen’s case studies with what some view as disruption happening at the top end of the market (using Apple as a case in point) and adjacent moves into entirely new markets by larger companies with the resources. Then there are others who suggest that getting disrupted can be avoided altogether.

In 2015, in the Harvard Business Review, Christensen and co-authors Raynor and McDonald addressed what has become a broader definition and use of “disruption” and “disruptive innovation” by referring to the theory’s core concepts (including updates) to explain why Uber is not considered disruptive but Netflix is. Christensen noted “we’ve come to realize that the steepness of any disruptive trajectory is a function of how quickly the enabling technology improves.”

How can you tame the fear?

...innovation needs to be continuous, ongoing and systematic
— Rita Gunther McGrath

Don’t stop innovating. Ever. A key area to cultivate in today’s digitally disruptive business environment is a culture of innovation—one that recognizes both success and failure as part of the process. More specifically, as professor Rita Gunther McGrath in her book The End of Competitive Advantage advises, to get it right: “innovation needs to be continuous, ongoing and systematic.”

So next time you bolt up in your bed at 3 am worrying about your business, ask yourself: are you cultivating a culture of innovation? And, how are you taking advantage of the latest technology to innovate?

Here is something else to ponder, is every company becoming a tech company?

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