The word “disruption” has become quite popular in the last few years. It’s for good reason. The Internet has truly transformed not only our personal lives, but the way entire industries operate.
When we think of disruption we think of products like Napster, services like Netflix, websites like Wikipedia, and companies like Google, Amazon and PayPal. We also think of a future built on a foundation laid by startups like Kickstarter, Spotify, Khan Academy, AngelList, MakerBot, BuzzFeed, Nest, Fab, Rovio and Square.
Disruption is about changing standards.
The process of producing and distributing information, media and advertising has been transformed, multiple times, in the past two decades. From Blogger, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, to Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Medium and Vine, our ability to create, share and amplify information and content continues to evolve. And the speed of this transformation is only getting faster. New social networks / publishing services reach mass adoption faster than ever. Forrester’s “Technographics Ladder” is changing as more people become “conversationalists” and “creators.” Similarly, the term “early adopters” is no longer as exclusive as it once used to be. Adoption can happen almost anywhere and at any time, creating a new generation of innovative and opinionated thinkers.
“Geeking out” is no longer a cause for shame. For those with access to the web, the web is part of our daily way of life.
The world we live in was not what the “futurists” of previous centuries envisioned.What would they think of how our lives have been transformed? Would they be shocked, impressed or disillusioned?
The subtle changes we’ve seen year after year in the past two decades are the “new normal” for us, but it’s not very hard to imagine a journalist from the 1940's taking a quick peek at @CNNbrk on Twitter, or BuzzFeed for that matter. And what would a musician from the 1950's think of playing songs on Spotify, on offline mode?! What would a travel advisor from the 1960's think of TripAdvisor, Yelp and Google Maps? What would a marketer from the 1970's think of the way social networks enable advertisers to reach both hypertargeted tiny audiences AND entire nations, in a digital canvas that is personalized for each individual?
What would a book publisher from the 1980's think of Vook, Amazon Kindle and Medium? Forget the 80's. What would an HR Director from the 1990's think of LinkedIn? What would a Customer Care representative think of Live Chat? What would a manager at a plastic manufacturing company think of 3D printing?
The web disrupted everything, and social media are doing much disruption of their own.
Social media are far from the fad or buzzword they used to be. Social media infected the web, and changed how all of us (those who have access to the Internet) go about our days on this Earth.
Social media didn’t ask for our permission, and it won’t ask for forgiveness. Social media didn’t target a specific demographic or separate us into different segments. It spread quickly and it’s not stopping until every human being on Earth is interconnected.
Call it the “social graph” or the “interest graph” or anything you like. If such a map of connections could actually be created/displayed, surely we would agree that the word “disruption” is not an overstatement. We would see that such a “graph” doesn’t care much for borders, classes and other traditional limitations. Human beings are more connected than ever before and we are creating new sub-cultures and habits.
Businesses have no choice but to understand the web. They can consider their options in terms of what to do on social networks, but companies no longer have any control over whether such social networks affect them or not.
Today’s businesses are disrupting yesterday’s businesses, and tomorrow’s businesses will be disrupted even faster. It is a new era in which the word “disruption” is not as impressive as it once was because it’s happening more often.
Disruption is the new normal.
Business competition has never been fiercer. Porter’s “Five Forces” are more relevant than ever as both established and startup companies are threatened to the core by new entrants and substitute offerings.
Disruption is serious. Those who have been known to disrupt (think Facebook and Amazon) are watching their backs because they know the business world is a cyclical one, and they know that their cycle will some day give in to younger, nimbler, leaner, more creative and more innovative companies.
You may be today’s leader, but you could be tomorrow’s Circuit City or Blockbuster. Just as ecommerce affected big box retailing, today’s ecommerce giants are watching out for challengers and disruptors coming from all over the globe.
From Groupon and LivingSocial to Fab and GILT, the world is full of options.
The increasingly “social” web is disrupting everything, and sometimes doing so by accident. It is creating more options than we need, and allowing a few to thrive amidst a sea of undifferentiated “me-too” options. There is little time to adapt to a disruption because it happens quickly, and it starts quietly.
You may be considering which segments to target while your competition is already reaching every segment there is. You may be re-thinking your pricing strategy while your competition is already deconstructing your traditional way of selling. You may be deciding how much to invest in R&D while your competition is already testing ten different experiments in the wild already.You may be thinking of copying the latest tech trend while your competition is already signing the papers to acquire them. You may be thinking of opening up a Twitter account while your competition is already reading every incoming message and responding to every single one that deserves a response.
You may have been the only option or the best option in the past, but today you’re just one of many options.
Too many options. And far too many bad and unfortunate options.
This is going to sound obvious but you should be one of the good options. You, leader of industry. You, executive at a large corporation. You, community manager at a startup. You, college student ready to start your career. You, High School student writing code and creating apps just for the heck of it.
Don’t think of disruption as a theoretical idea or a weekend read. Don’t think of disruption in terms of competition.
Be one of the ones with a vision that welcomes and challenges disruption. Be one of the ones who prepares for the worst AND best case scenarios. Be one of those passionate and determined enough to deconstruct and reconstruct old patterns of thinking, even if there seems to be no apparent reason to even consider a new way of thinking. Be one of the excellent ones. One of the bold. One of the few.
Seek to disrupt yourself… before it’s too late.