I’m not sure when I first heard it, but the quote stuck with me – “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.”
So, when you read articles and hear people talking about something called disruptive innovation, how do you know whether or not it’s right for your business? Is it just another popular trend that people are talking about or should it be a critical aspect of your business strategy going forward? Good questions. Maybe we need to start by defining what Disruptive Innovation is.
From a pure business perspective and maybe at the risk of oversimplifying a topic that can be quite complex, the phrase “disruptive innovation” essentially describes a process or enabling technology that allows a smaller company with fewer resources to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses and in doing so, either create new markets or redirect market share to their company. Some examples of companies that have used “disruptive innovation” to create their success are Uber, Lyft and Turbo Tax. But, this is largely what these companies were trying to do in establishing themselves. In most cases they were not established businesses that transformed themselves using disruptive innovation – they created an alternative business model from their very beginning. They chose to be the disruptors!
Now, before you can determine whether or not disruptive innovation should be part of your business strategy, you must ask yourself one simple question, “What are the goals/objectives for my business?” Think about it. As you take that 30,000 foot view of your business, ultimately, what are your goals? My guess would be they are two-fold – to deliver quality products/services that add value for your customers and in doing so, run a profitable, thriving business.
If we can agree on those two points as your ultimate objectives, the single question you now have to answer becomes clearer – “How can I apply disruptive innovation in my already established business to help me achieve my business objectives and ultimately, run a more profitable business?” Because, bottom line, if disruptive innovation cannot help you do a better job of achieving your business objectives or helping your business to be more profitable, why should it even be a topic for discussion in your business strategy?
That said, however, do you need to evaluate new operating models and be open to newer technology that could potentially improve the services you provide to your customers? Absolutely! Do you need to maintain an attitude of “always learning” so that you do stay current on new innovations and what other businesses are doing? Of course you do! And yes, do you need to always strive to enhance the quality of your services and look to be innovative? Most definitely. But, should you totally abandon the processes, procedures and culture you have established in building what is already a successful business because someone told you that disruptive innovation was going to leave you in the dust? I would suggest….not!
I have spent the vast majority of my career working in the technology/software business and during that time I was an “agent for change.” I believe in the value of technology and how it can transform companies and improve the customer experience. But, disruptive innovation brings implications with it that says you have to disband what you are already doing and start anew. That raises a lot of questions, too many of which to cover in this blog.
I can, however, tell you that not every business entity needs to embrace disruptive innovation in order to survive. Improving the quality of your customer experience should always be at the top of your list when it comes to your business strategy. But, making improvements to maintain and exceed your already high standards of service doesn’t always fall into the category of disruptive innovation.
Know your customers, know your business and develop a culture in your business that has your employees delivering the best possible customer service and experience they can. In the end, the customer experience you deliver has everything to do with your people. Performance is a people issue.