Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Digital Disruption: Find the Disruptions, Go There

Digital Disruption Lesson #5: Go to where the disruptions are. This is the 5th in a five part series on Digital Disruptions.

Are you concerned about the Elphaba’s in your business? Elphaba is more commonly known as the Wicked Witch of the West. Her business greeting is, “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” She is green, ugly, and has a penchant for red shoes and fire. For all her evils however, she at least has the courtesy of telling you her plans. You know that she is after you, and that your time is limited. She even provides the hourglass filled with special sand.

According to George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research, there are a group of students at Stanford University that are also trying to do you in. They want your ruby slippers. They seek to replace your business. They want to find their place in the sun by developing the next successful business. Their inauspicious anonymity is almost more unsettling than Elphaba.

It just so happens that most new business, in some ways, cause the downturn of existing businesses. I recently finished the book, Innovators Dilemma, and it provides an important lesson. Companies tend to falter, not because they fail to listen to their customers, but because they fail to see where their new opportunities are emerging. Successful businesses have their Emerald Cities, watch the corn field, and monitor the Yellow Brick Road; they just never imagine a house falling out of the sky.

In fact, there are countless examples of businesses that failed because they listened to their current customers too much. Customers always want the same things; more of what you’re providing, faster, and at a lower cost. While oversimplified, this is the gist of what most “best customers” ask.

Some companies try to beat this trend by building Centers of Excellence, Customer Data Marts, and Emerging Technology Departments. These are good, but again, they tend to be guided by the wants and needs of current customers, using current products, in the current environment. The Stanford witches are not in your environment, they don’t interact with your best customers, and they’re not concerned with your outdated products.

So how do you beat them? How do you get ahead of your self-created self-destruction curve? Since, by definition, disruption is an external event - you have to go external. Go to where your disruptions will emanate. Go to Stanford, CMU, MIT, or Silicon Valley. Go to OZ, and find Elphaba’s castle.

Digital Disruption Lesson #5: Go to where the disruptions are.

If you think your business will be disrupted by college drop outs with 3D printers, wireless hotspots and social media - then hire some college drop outs.

Get a balloon, go to OZ, look for the flying monkeys. Embrace the disruption.

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