Much like a so-called Hollywood “overnight success story,” disruption takes its own sweet time. It’s not truly overnight. It starts long before we see its effects and it can have many tentacles, creating entirely new industries. The best companies disrupt themselves.
Not every change or simple automation deserves the word, “disruption.” Disruption is a 180-degree turnaround, an upending of what appears to be un-knowable to become the mainstream. True disruption smolders a long time. Disruption is almost impossible to fully predict, but important to pay attention to in order to make business moves carefully. The music industry changed many times, creating new methods of delivery for music: wax and vinyl records, 8-track tapes and cassettes. When music was able to be digitized on CD, this allowed for the creation of the MP3, creating easy, if sometimes illegal, file sharing. Suddenly, songs could be sent via email. Radio stations were able to automate the process of deliver music to the listener — the consumer. The inability to effectively govern file-sharing created a massive change in the recording industry and eventually allowed artists to create high quality independent works at low cost, free from the trappings and legal wrangling of record labels. Digital power to the people, as it were. The disruption of the music industry was a hard lesson, with growing pains involved for many. As difficult as it was, we learned a lesson from disruption of not only music, but film and publishing as well. Will we sit back and watch as the automotive industry, banking and healthcare do the same? Or will we not only ride these waves, but master them?
Businesses today are in a digital holding pattern. A “wait and see” period where great possibilities exist but have not been uncovered. Most businesses excel at their core function, but wait for new ideas to come to them. Business luck should not be a thing, however. Companies need to roll up their corporate sleeves to identify disruption waiting to happen — before the competition identifies it. What seemingly-impossible-to-digitize products or services can be delivered to consumers? What as-yet-unidentified gap can be filled? These are the questions that companies should have asked themselves years ago. But it truly is never too late to get out ahead of the pack. Often, a simple lack of clarity around the goal or outcome leads to business procrastination and disruption by competitors.
When companies align with others more experienced in vetting business ideas, they gain a wealth of insight and plans of action, much like a friend who reaches out to others when they don’t know the next right step to take in life. These relationships are invaluable in business. A simple hammering away at company visions, benefitted by outside expertise, begins the process of creating sustainable business change. Disruption doesn’t happen overnight. It is the culmination of brainstorming, planning and not letting up. In life or business — we all need someone more experienced on our side.