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« The best thing about equilibrium? We're never there. | Main | Choosing ideas that get traction »

Go ahead, disrupt yourself

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Converting anxiety to action

Disruption is a big word. It impacts different people in different ways. Some see it as an opportunity; others a threat. 

Yet both responses are a source of anxiety. Big shifts in the commercial environment change whole industries, and eventually whole economies. With the internet, the shift can go global. Our business, our jobs, our lives: they are all affected.

The problem here is not necessarily the disruption. It’s how we respond. Our beliefs and attitudes get in the way. 

Faced with disrupted businesses and careers, neither of the above mindsets are constructive. For those who freeze, their intransigence is summarised by phrases like ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’. Not much opportunity there. It’s just ‘run and hide’.

At the other end of the spectrum is the big strategic rethink. ‘We need to overhaul our business model from top to bottom.’ These people think they need to own the new space. So far, I haven’t seen many incumbents do that successfully. They make plausible forecasts of what’s coming and how we should cope with it, only to find the trend turns left instead of right. 

Is there a middle way?

Survival and growth lie between these bookends. We need to find some peace by staying a little underwhelmed. It’s often more productive to cut through the ‘bigness’ of things with baby steps, rather than with a full frontal assault. Call it tactics if you prefer. In your personal life, expectations can give you direction, but they don’t give you focus. You get that by doing what’s in front of you. Same in business. Work on the tactics and the ideas will come. 

What are simple starting points?

Give yourself, or even better, someone else, the job of finding the tactical middle ground. Form a think tank. Get more than just your head thinking about this. Look at your customers’ needs one by one. Work through their journey, from discovering your product  to dealing with your firm. Ask how you can maintain the relationship. Look at ways to improve any part of that journey. Ditto for the product itself.

Examine your value creation and supply chains step by step. Rather than owning the new technology, how can you use it to cut waste, build better relationships and collaborate sensibly with channel partners?

Look to your internal processes. In some areas, the way you’ve always done it might be best, but it’s rare that there is not something, somewhere, that offers you a chance to disrupt yourself. Better you than someone else. 

Believe in the process

The advantage of baby steps is that you gradually find a way through. The big picture will appear when it’s ready. In the meantime, it’s the tactical probing that informs the strategy. It stops you from standing still but keeps you from making the ‘big bet’ on an untested horse. 

Remember, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being a second mover. Think Google versus Yahoo. First movers often fall by the wayside. If you tackle this one step at a time, you will start to identify where real opportunities lie. Perspective will replace anxiety. Your real strengths will become clear.

Reader Comments (2)

A wonderful insightful observation.

May 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIan Hyman

I didn't realise that you were a philosopher! Well constructed.

June 15, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterIan Hyman

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