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The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Startup Disruption

Similar to many marketing buzzwords, disruption is one that has been used and misused almost as long as the word has existed. However, in today’s tech-savvy marketplace, marketers feel they “coined the phrase,” and prance around sipping overpriced lattes telling everyone just that.

So, why don’t we take a brief step back into history, to around 1954? Back in a time when marketers had never heard of disruption. Hang on, they did.

Take the classic Harvard Business Review article by Theodore Levitt on Marking Myopia – although this is specifically about the rise and fall of whole industries specifically, these changes were driven through disruption.

From the Ford Model T, the demise of the humble grocery store being wiped off the map by supermarket chains and petrochemical companies being challenged not once – when the kerosene light was replaced by incandescent lamps.

But again today with the rise of alternative power and battery-powered cars. Let’s face it; disruption is real, it has happened well before us and will continue well after we are gone.

There is a clear gap in how disruption is being used   

Three or so years ago, every startup was wanting to “disrupt” or be a “disruptor,” taking on the big guys and bringing them to their knees – like David did Goliath.

But today it’s not as easy for a startup to disrupt a corporate as it was three years ago. In fact, for many startups, corporates are becoming the desired partner.

That is to say, embracing technology to automate, streamline and provide their highly-skilled and innovative workforce with flexible working arrangements.

Previously where many of the potential disruptors who were within companies breaking out, now they are empowered to innovate and create from within.

Startups, SME’s and corporates work together to proactively create solutions for products, services, and markets, leading to collaboration rather than decimation.

Where disruption was once being used to disassemble the ways of the past, now it is being used collaboratively create new blue ocean strategies and customer-led solutions like never before.

How to look out for the positive indicators of disruption

Fitness empire F45 is building a global fitness empire around providing a 45-minute workout regime that a business executive or family person can make time in their day for.

Food companies such as You Foods are removing the need for expensive and often nutritionally void foods, with portion-controlled, easy to access ready meals.

The outcome is more people are becoming active and eating better, thus reducing the rates of obesity and diabetes within our community.

Then with the wave of health and wellness sweeping across the globe, countries have started implementing sugar taxes. Take Singapore for instance, which banned the advertising of sugary drinks — a positive result from disruption.

Does startup disruption equate to a lack of management experience? 

With just about anyone able to create a startup with a great idea and a little seed funding, there is no doubt that there is a lack of management experience in startups.

There are certainly cases in which some companies feel so casual that at a certain point we wonder if the co-founders just wanted to hang out, or actually do business.

This is not necessarily all bad, but there are significant corporate governance, systems, and processes that experienced managers can add to the fold.

The benefit of the “lack of experience” is a new way of thinking. That’s because there are no predispositions to how things should be done.

New startup managers need to be compliant, legal and of course ethical, but besides that, a new wave of thinking is providing startups with flexibility and uniqueness that many employees and customers are crying out for in today’s market place.

Has disruption evolved from unhappy customers? 

Disruption is about change, not simply technology. Netflix is a perfect example, where people got sick of travelling out to Blockbuster stores to pick up their new release videos.

Blockbuster refused to change their business model, so Netflix literally took their customers in a number of years, closing one of the most successful global franchise businesses in history. Why?

Disruption is a customer-driven phenomenon. New technologies come and go. The ones that stick around are those the consumers choose to adopt.

Adoption is critical to success, as with the blockbuster example, Netflix was easily accessible through a Smart TV or computer, it was as expensive as renting a couple of new release movies for the whole month’s subscription and you can unsubscribe at any time – simple to adopt.

Wrapping up 

Disruption has become part of our daily lives, from our average commute where we are connected through social media, advertising and apps to companies around the globe, through to the way we travel, communicate, do business and purchase our groceries.

Generations ago, the change would have been resisted, however, with the rise of the millennials, change is not only embraced, but it is also demanded. But true innovation and disruption should aim to change the customers’ world not only for a profit but for meaningful good.

Disrupting for the sake of being a “disruptor” has moved on, the time is to innovate, iterate and stay relevant. Regardless if you are a startup a big corporate, social enterprise or not-for-profit — the key to disruption is making the world a better place.

Source: e27

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