Coach's Corner: The Evolution of Disruption
Written by Dan Dillard
If you had asked me 20 years ago if the word disrupt had a negative connotation or a positive one, I would have said negative. Fast forward to now … and, well, almost every entrepreneur wants to disrupt something.
I absolutely love it. See, over the years I’ve learned something about myself: I love to fix things. You remember that old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, for many situations we need to rethink that mentality and go fix that item that isn’t broken but that could have a better design or function.
As humans we evolve daily, we are ever expanding in our thoughts, ideas, and progress of who we are as people and as a society. What wasn’t acceptable 20 years ago is no big deal now. Do you remember the tools we used 20 years ago? Typewriters and fax machines were still popular. It would be another nine years before the iPhone was released.
If you think of a business as having a life of its own, it also must grow, and once it gets to maturity, it must continue to reinvent itself to keep up with its evolving customers. Just think of all the businesses that have proved this for us. Why do companies such as Amazon and Apple continue to grow, while others such as Blockbuster fail? Is it that some reinvent to customer needs and others fail to see the evolution of customers’ needs and wants? The common key to success fascinates me: If you want to succeed, think about the audience, clients, and customers you are serving and remember you are providing them value and have to continue providing them value, or someone else will.
As business leaders we must always be thinking 5 to 10 years ahead — where will we be then? — and pivot along the way. I think of Jeff Bezos and the data that he analyzed from this new thing called the internet. He studied spreadsheets, saw a way to create a business, and in 24 years has created an empire that puts him at the top of wealth creation. According to eMarketer, Amazon captured nearly 50 percent of the eCommerce marketplace last year, and the company is widely regarded as one of the top earners in cloud-computing. Disrupt — that Bezos did, changing the way we as a society purchase items.
As a fellow entrepreneur, or as an aspiring entrepreneur, remember that necessity is the mother of all invention. But, I’d add to that: If necessity is the mother, then the father, uncle, aunt, (insert family member here) is reinvention. In other words, almost every successful invention builds upon previous ideas and technology. Disruption takes what we know and changes how we think about and use it, forging a completely new path as it does so.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be successful. The next time you are brainstorming about your next idea or product, simply look at what is causing frustration in your life or the life of others. Is it traffic? Is it long hold times? Is it a particular state agency? Is it shopping? What is causing you pain? How can you fix it? Will the fix change the world? Will it be relevant 5 or 10 years from now? And can you turn it into a profitable business? These are the questions you should be asking yourself.
And remember — and this is incredibly important, so important that I have to remind myself of it on a weekly basis — no one is giving you permission to do this. In fact, quite the opposite. You will certainly have people who think you are crazy for following your path. How many people have cast doubt on the prospect of a manned Mars mission or have questioned whether underground tunnels could really work to alleviate traffic? Yet, Elon Musk continues with his work, striving to disrupt and create a better future for society. You, too, have to trust in your heart and in your gut that what you’re doing will change the world, and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
So, now it’s your turn. How can you make your neighbors’ lives easier? Answer that question, and go disrupt! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.