Something can be said to be disruptive when it fundamentally changes the dimensions and paradigms of an industry – or even a way of life. Fire. The wheel. The telephone. The internet…
Disruption also makes life difficult for comfortable market leaders. Just as Coca-Cola and Pepsi missed the energy drink boom, allowing Red Bull to carve up 43% of the market, Sony missed the mp3 – or at least didn’t anticipate the boundary-changing dynamic of Apple’s iTunes and iPod revolution. Hoover missed cyclone technology when Dyson swept into the vacuum cleaner market. Kodak’s synonymy with the camera ended when it missed the memo about digital photography. And even Snake II couldn’t save Nokia when it ignored innovation at the most crucial of times.
Even now, as the niche carved out by tablet and mobile devices drifts closer to established computer models, Apple itself is at risk of being disrupted – by none other than Microsoft.
Disruption occurs when ways of working irrevocably change – and the digital age not only caused disruption at its outset but continues to redefine the way brands and businesses operate. Digital doesn’t respect boundaries. While adoption of it can uncover inefficiencies and create value, it also opens you up to disruption from breakthroughs that reframe the boundaries of competition.
Every business needs to install a digital focus within its C-suite – and this requires openness and transparency. In the digital realm, who you are as a business is all out there, in the public domain. And, no matter how big or well-established you are, a startup mentality is needed; a relentless drive to innovate and interact with the wider digital world. This is because it’s this behaviour that creates change – and disruption.
“We are transforming GE into the world’s premier DIGITAL INDUSTRIAL COMPANY using our scale and diversity to DRIVE OUTCOMES FOR CUSTOMERS”
Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO
Right now, in the age of the Industrial Internet, you don’t have to look far for sources of disruption. GE, for example, is the world’s ‘Digital Industrial Company’, transforming the industry with connected, responsive and predictive software-defined solutions. But it’s how it describes itself – as the world’s biggest startup – that’s interesting, with a strategy geared for continuous innovation, endlessly exploring the potential of a digitally connected world.
Even in ‘traditional’ industries – manufacturing, construction, engineering, and so on – businesses are starting to adopt this mentality. It’s a mentality dictating that, no matter how long you’ve been in business, no matter how ingrained your practices, and no matter how secure you feel in your success, you must never stop learning. You must never stop listening to the flow of online trends, and thinking how they could relate to your industry.
That’s why agility and curiosity are ideal values in this disruption economy. Digital will only become more pervasive over the coming years. Boundaries will continually shift, the order of things will be inverted, over and over again, and the old gods of industry will need to think and act like up-and-comers to stay on top in this new age. It’s going to be fun.