Disrupting Disruption

The future belongs to the disruptors. Customers reward it. Your business survival demands it unless you want to be rendered obsolete by an unknown start-up or overtaken by a global company from a developing nation. You had better be different, or you will die.

That basically sums up the key message from your last professional conference, right?

But, what if the notion that businesses need disruptors and disrupting is nothing more than the latest meme invading our consciousness?

Alan Murray, writing in the
edition of
magazine, shared two interesting facts about how the largest companies are affected by and view disruption:
  • Fifty-seven percent of companies on the Fortune 500 list in 1995 are not there today. And, that number isn't significantly greater than the 45 percent that dropped off in the 20 years between 1955 and 1975--a time when disruption wasn't perceived to be all that disruptive.
  • Fifty-seven percent of CEO's believe that their "most dangerous competitor" is another Fortune 500 company rather than a start-up or competitor from a less developed country.

Perhaps the leaders of the world's largest companies are disconnected from reality and destined to be rendered obsolete. But, the more likely truth is that our fascination with all things disruptive is more show than substance.

Reframing Perspective

Perspective matters. And, our current view of disruption is framed by the speed at which new developments in technology are making it possible to turn the status quo on its head.

Technology has always created new winners and losers as it becomes more available, dependable, and economical. The folk hero John Henry battled the steam powered hammer in a race to lay railroad tracks. The telegraph displaced the Pony Express. Trains and automobiles eventually made stagecoach travel obsolete.

Lost in the conversation about the need for disruption are these three truths:
  1. There are only two times when you need to focus on disruption: (a) there are unforeseen and uncontrollable catastrophic circumstances; and (b) you have been ignoring the need to change and adapt for so long that you no longer have a choice.
  2. Customers don't necessarily value disruption ... and sometimes they hate it. Remember when Coca-Cola disrupted its customers by introducing the New Coke? How about when Netflix tried to split its DVD business from its streaming service? Customers want you to be faster, better, cheaper, and/or friendlier. They want you to help them avoid disruption in their lives. They don't want to be disrupted.
  3. There is a difference between change and disruption. Change affects everyone. Occasionally, that change can be disruptive, but not always. There are times when you come up with a breakthrough idea, but not always. The pace of change is accelerating, and your ability to make change work can be a competitive advantage. The best organizations are always changing and adapting in pursuit of anticipating and responding the marketplace. But, they don't buy into the notion that the only good change is a disruptive change or pursue disruption for its own sake.

The One Disruption You May Need

Game-changing innovation doesn't usually appear without warning. Blockbuster knew about Netflix before it transformed the video rental industry. It even turned down an opportunity to purchase the company. The technology that enables Uber was available to taxi companies. They didn't see it as important because they suffered from 3D Vision.

3D Vision stands for Denial, Distortion, and Delusion. And, it can cripple even the best organizations. The affliction is evident in decisions and language that denies the facts, distorts reality, and deludes everyone into thinking that circumstances do not apply to them. You can see it in decisions based on assumptions such as these:
  • Certainty and stability are just around the corner.
  • Our customers never change. Doing what we've always done is good enough.
  • We know our future competitors, and their development will follow the same path and progression as ours.
You can avoid the trap of 3D Vision by:
  • Seeking and acknowledging the truth about your marketplace, customers, and competitors.
  • Being perpetually curious and scouting the horizon for what is possible.
  • Being disciplined in your search for ways to be faster, better, cheaper, and friendlier in every aspect of your business.

The world doesn't need more disruption. There is plenty of it to go around. It is hardwired into life.

The world, your company, and your career need the ability to anticipate and respond to the potential disruption that already exists. That requires a radical--and potentially disruptive--change in the way we view and create the future.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations deliver positive results in a world of accelerating change. His keynote seminars and workshops are informative, engaging, and memorable. To learn more or to hire Randy for your next meeting, visit www.penningtongroup.com, email info@penningtongroup.com, or call 972-980-9857.

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