When people talk about businesses that have lost out due to digital disruption, the downfall of Kodak is frequently mentioned. But Luke Williams, a professor of innovation at New York University’s Stern School of Business, maintains that every business can be a Kodak. For Williams, when businesses set out to innovate, they make incremental changes that support their current business model. They don’t often make drastic changes that challenge existing ideas and processes.
“It’s hard to put your hand into a car’s engine when the car is still running, but that’s what disruptive innovation is – changing the way things are done before your business is backed into a corner,” he says.
Most people think that disrupting an industry entails developing a revolutionary product or service to replace an existing one. But this is only part of the process. But “new” doesn’t necessarily mean disruptive. True digital disruption is about creating something that causes a shift in how industries operate, adds value to the market or completely shakes up business practices.
According to Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, there are two ways businesses can be disruptive:
- New market disruption – This type of digital disruption sees the introduction of a totally new product or service designed to cater to a market that was previously unaddressed.
- Low-end disruption – This type of disruption doesn’t require a new concept or idea. It entails coming up with innovative ways to make existing products or services simpler, cheaper, more convenient and more efficient.
Disrupting an industry means challenging the status quo, notes Williams. It all starts with asking questions that contradict how things are already being done. For example, a US apparel company opted to sell socks in sets of three rather than in pairs, acknowledging that people often lose one sock and then no longer have a set.
At the end of the day, there are no simple ways to disrupt your industry, only smart ways to challenge the norm. You can either be the one leading the way in your industry or be the business left behind.
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