Your Business Is Already Being Disrupted

You can’t see big-bang disruption coming. You can’t stop it. You can’t overcome it. Old-style disruption posed the innovator’s dilemma. Big-bang disruption is the innovator’s disaster. And it will be keeping executives in every industry in a cold sweat for a long time to come. The impact of big-bang disrupters is certainly amplified for technology- and information-intensive businesses, but most industries are at risk. In automobiles, for example, manufacturers are aware of the threat posed by the electric car, having seen versions of it since the late 1800s. But so far there has been no steadily growing market of early adopters, despite a wide range of offerings today from both start-ups and global incumbents. As purely electric vehicles continue to improve their core technologies, including faster charging and more-dependable batteries, consumers seem to be waiting for the industry to get it just right. That’s a big bang in the making. Likewise, payment processing is poised to migrate from credit cards to smartphones, and it may not be today’s dominant players that launch the winning app. Given the rapid success of payment innovations like Kenya’s M-Pesa in the developing world, the right solution in developed markets is likely to hit big and fast when it finally coalesces. Even in industries where regulations limit competition, there is growing pressure from big-bang disrupters homing in on large-scale inefficiencies. Education is being privatized and moving online, exposing just how little our public institutions have invested in technology that visibly advances their core teaching mission. Hospitals are reluctant to embrace telemedicine, even though it offers the potential to provide quality, affordable health care regardless of location. Highly regulated taxi and limousine markets are being invaded by new car services such as Uber, which allows customers to order and pay with a smartphone and track dispatched rides using mobile location services. These and other mature industry segments—including many professional services, manufacturing, distribution, and retailing—are already experiencing their early failed experiments. Today’s experiments may not be scalable, but an undisciplined disruption could lurk within them all. Their big bangs may not be far off. The good news is that big-bang disruptions hold immense potential for those who can quickly learn the new rules of unencumbered development, unconstrained growth, and undisciplined strategy. Your current business may be replaced by something more dynamic and unstable but also more profitable. And the change will come not over time but suddenly. In other words, not with a whimper—but with a bang

Leave a Reply