Probably every company around the world has an innovation strategy. They have numerous ideas; in fact they have more ideas than they know what to do with. The trouble is many do not have them written down or anything. In addition, that is one of the problems concisely right there.
Ideas often do not get articulated in anything other than “water-cooler” conversations. Therefore, they remain abstract, just discussed and half-baked in people’s heads. However, when you do hear about the ideas, or see them, another problem emerges. That is, more often than not, almost 100% of the times are incremental ideas. They are ideas are in line with current business model and it only support the current product and services of the organization.
You can understand why that happens. Everybody in the business is incentivized towards making that business work better. Therefore, the ideas that everybody is coming up with are the ones they are most comfortable with.
The ideas we are almost comfortable with, are the ones that we have encountered most often. The products, the services, the experiences, we have encountered before. In addition, it makes us feel, kind of happy and relaxed because we know the outcome.
However, companies that only embrace incremental change and only develop incremental ideas are making a big mistake. The reason is that they put you on a path, a path that becomes increasingly narrow and eventually you are going to reach the end of that path. In addition, when you do, your customers have forsaken you for another offering that nobody saw coming, because you were developing incremental ideas.
Now, if companies, organizations, or people do take disruptive risks with their ideas, it is normally because they’ve been backed into a corner and being forced to by circumstances; changes in their environment or new competitor. So, they’ve got no other choice but to come up with ground breaking disruptive ideas to really try and change their business. But by then it’s too late. Now, this is what Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard University first described in his book called “The Innovator’s Dilemma” when he was describing this notion of disruptive technology.
That is, that successful companies often ignore new technologies, established companies, because they are at the bottom of the market. Hardly anybody is buying or using those products. So, the established companies say there is no market for them. They do not care about that. But, gradually those products, those new technologies grow and influence until they actually surpass the old systems. In addition, this is what catches companies off-guard.
Are you the disruptive technology?
There is a misconception when it comes to talking about disruptive technology. It is not about technology. It is about the way you think. It is not about how to spot and react to new products and technologies coming out in the market and try to decide what to do. The challenge is to work out, how you can be the disruptive change in your segment, in your category, in your industry even the disruptive changed for your country. That is the challenge. Now, when you are aiming to be the disruptive change, you have to give away this notion of comfortable ideas.
We are comfortable with the ideas that we think are going to work. In addition, you have to embrace a new feeling. You have to embrace being scared. Taking disruptive risk is scary business because you do not know where it is going to go. You do not know what the answers are.
Now, I assume everybody has seen the above image before. It you did not know it is the stabbing in the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”.
What happened in the film before Janet Leigh’s character was stabbed in the shower? But why was she driving a car?
Because it is irrelevant, nobody remembers where the film started because it does not matter. It started out she had stolen a suitcase of money and she was on the run. So, it started out as a caper film. Then, all of the sudden, she is stabbed in the shower. Why did that happen? They did not even know the money was in the car.
So caught the audience watching the film by surprise and took the film in another direction. In Hollywood terms, this is called a turning point. It catches you by surprise, sparks your curiosity. You really want to know where this is going, but it changes the direction. If you’re really going to embrace disruptive change, that is what you’re looking for. You are looking for the turning points that again, take your business, your segment, your category, your industry, your city, your country in another direction.
One of my favorite examples of somebody in business on a turning point is Steve Jobs. Back in 1992, where he started working on a project of Frog Design called Snow White. This was meant to be an exploration of where Apple could go through. It was an exploration of seven new products, hence Snow White and the seven dwarfs. So, the founder of Frog Design was in the room with Steve Jobs, expecting to hear a brief about the product specs and requirement of the project. Steve Jobs simply said – “I want Bob Dylan songs”.
This is known as a “disruptive hypothesis”, and they can be powerful. In fact, this led to the development and influence of the first Apple Macintosh SE. It is one of the successes that came of project Snow White.
What is disruptive hypothesis?
It’s an intentionally unreasonable statement that gets your thinking following in another direction quickly. The key to thinking disruptively about anything that you are focused on is that you have to be wrong at the start in order to be right at the end.
Because if you are right at the start, it means that, somebody else is already doing it and your ideas are already generic. You have to start this process not knowing where it is going to go. It is the difference between prediction and provocation.
Prediction is what most businesses spend all their time on, predicting where the market is going, predicting what the next incremental change in a product should be. There is far too little provocation going on. Therefore, before you can provoke or disrupt a market in any way, what you have to do is provoke your own thinking. It starts with you changing the way you think about your competition and the business you are in.
Another great example is the famous American movie “The Shining”? The Shining is a famous American film; it is a horror film. One of the scariest films ever made.
Disruption: There was a competition a few years ago; it was for an assistant editors. Rules of the competition were simple: they had to take a famous film and create a new trailer for it, which would shift your perception of what that film was about. So, take something very familiar, completely flip it on its head, and make it unfamiliar. Below is a trailer what the winner came up with.
Now, if you have not seen “The Shining”, I do not recommend seeing it after that preview. They had to keep all the visuals the same but they could change two variables, which were the voiceover and the soundtrack. The soft voiceover that you are very familiar with romantic comedies triggers another pattern. The Peter Gabriel soundtrack; you could put Peter Gabriel in anything, and it will soften it up.
Another great example is everyday apparel. It does not have to tech related. Think about things in everyday life, everyday aspects in your business that are not necessarily broken, they are not necessarily problems. Socks, for instance; what do we take for granted about socks? Our expectation is that we always buy socks in pairs, and they match.
Disruption: What if we sold socks in sets of three and none of them matches? How kind of crazy would that be? Somebody, actually, did this and went and started a company called LittleMissMatched.
They sell socks in sets of three and none of them matches. What they found out was that they are a hit between eight to twelve years old girls who loved mismatching socks; it enables self-expression, but the disruptive hypothesis came first.
A word of warning, being disruptive for disruptive sake is just annoying. It needs to deliver value; that is what you need at the end.
How long have we been drinking soda, and it is the same cliché, it is the same expectations. It is inexpensive, tastes good, all the sugar and it is marketed as inspirational. Coke and Pepsi wrote the rulebook on inspirational marketing. This is an American democracy in a can.
Disruption: Somebody came along and said: “I’m sick of these clichés; let’s disrupt those clichés. Let’s reverse those. What if instead of soda being inexpensive, it was expensive? What if instead of tasting good, what if we place no importance on taste? What if we stop telling people that it’s going to change their lives and make them happy, and we just tell them exactly what the product does: it gives them a functional boost when they need it? Along came Red Bull.
When they launched the product, it was double the price of Coca Cola, they placed no importance on taste. You might say “Well, I like the taste of Red Bull” now. I can tell you in those early focus group tests, people were spitting it out on the floor. But, they went with it, and created this huge market for energy drinks.
Disruptive Rental Cars:
This is one of my personal favorites because I was so frustrated with the rental cars for so long. Think of about the times you have rented a car. You have to go in there, so they have to see the customer. You have to complete paperwork, and they rent cars by the day.
Disruption: Somebody came along and said:”You know what? What if we did not have to see the customer, they could skip the paperwork, and we are going to rent cars to them by the hour. Along came Zipcar. They took the car-sharing model from Europe and gave it their own spin.
The great thing about any disruptive strategy is that it leaves competitors scrambling to catch up. Now, we see other big competitors like Hertz and Avis are following this strategy. But, Zipcar has the advantage; they have 80% of the market right now, because the disruptive strategy gives you a huge lead time over what other people are doing.
In America, in the sitcom industry, like The Cosby Show and Family Matters are all driven by the expectation called the “hugging and learning” rule. An example, one of the teenage children gets into trouble at school, comes back to the house at the end of the day, there is a lot of tension but at the end of the episode, normally around the kitchen table, they have all worked it out. The viewers have learned something; everybody is happy.
Disruption: Somebody came along and said: You know what? I am so sick of this cliché, hugging and learning. New rule, ‘no hugging and learning’, no matter how much trouble the characters get into. They are not going to learn anything by their mistakes, and they are not going to develop.
So does this ring a bell? Along came, one of the most successful sitcoms of all time – Seinfeld. Just think of George Costanza, for instance. What a breath of fresh air, no matter how much trouble he gets into the character never develops.
An economist at New York University, Paul Romer, wrote an economic theory called New Growth Theory. In that, he said, “Ideas are the recipes we use to rearrange things to create new value and wealth. I think that is an amazing definition of what ideas are. The challenge for every organization, no matter what size, the challenge for everyone in business, whether you are an executive or an entrepreneur, is to develop a constant stream of bold new recipes. Recipes that change the trajectory of a market, recipes that turn consumer expectations upside down, recipes that can take an entire industry into its next generation. That is the challenge, because the potential for reinvention is all around us.
There has never been a better time to make an impact on the world. I truly believe that. It is an extremely exciting time to be thinking about how to structure your business, your community, your country and even your life, in new ways that create value. What will be your disruptive power?
Inspired by: Luke Williams www.disruptive-thinking.com/