Seems like everyone is talking about disruption these days.
And it’s not surprising. Every time you turn around the disruptors are turning yet another industry on its head, usually turbo fuelled by smart technology.
Disruptors are the new glamour kids of business, creating massive wealth at record speed and often achieving breath takingly huge business exits. While disruptors like Apple, WhatsApp and Instagram all came from the technology sector, more recent disruptors like Uber and Airbnb are successfully taking on more traditional industries.
A business plan based on being a disruptor is not for the faint hearted though. The failure rate for business start-ups generally is high. For disruptors, it’s through the roof. The blunt reality is you either crash through……or you crash.
So, what are some of the secrets to being a successful disruptor?
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to hear from some of Australia’s masters of disruption - Florian Dehne, Head of Strategy at seek.com, Cameron McIntyre, COO at Carsales.com, Stuart Stoyan, CEO of MoneyCentre and Owen Wilson, CFO of REA Group.
Here were my six takeaway insights.
1. Deep understanding of their disruptive sweet spot.
Great disruptors look long and hard at the market place to identify their disruptive sweet spot before they move. And, contrary to common impressions, they usually don’t try to disrupt a whole marketplace. They focus on the niche or opportunity that is most susceptible to a vastly superior product or service offering.
2. A laser like focus on customer needs and experience
Disruptors understand customer needs and customer experience better than their competitors. They understand what really matters to their customers and make sure they are very, very good at shaping their services or products to meet those needs.
Or to put it another way, the great disruptors always have a very clear purpose. For more on the importance of business purpose Simon Sinek’s Ted talk is excellent. Here’s the link.
3. Hyper market place awareness
Unlike most businesses, disruptors are hype aware of what’s happening in their market place, both locally and globally. They are finely tuned to the smallest changes and ready to react if required. They also understand the important differences between markets, particularly when looking to expand into overseas markets.
Disruptors are always learning and often look to developments in other market places and industries for ideas they can use or adapt.
4. A “paranoid” mindset
While disruptors often generate paranoia within industry incumbents, the great disruptors are perpetually paranoid themselves.
They know their success has come from picking off industry and competitor weaknesses with laser like, and often ruthless, efficiency and focus. As a result, they are always mindful of existing or new competitors doing the same to them.
5. Robust but co-operative relationships with industry incumbents
It’s often assumed that disruptors are perpetually at war with the industry incumbents they have disrupted. While relations between industry incumbents and disruptors are often robust and, in the early days, generally quite hostile, effective disruptors look for ways to work co-operatively with other industry places once they have staked out their disruptive sweet spot.
6. A willingness to disrupt themselves if necessary
The great disruptors are always prepared to disrupt themselves if necessary. If Apple hadn’t been willing to disrupt its highly successful ipod, most of Apple’s current product range wouldn’t exit today.
If you are looking at a disruptive business opportunity, I highly recommend you have a close look at how seek.com, Carsales.com, MoneyCentre, REA Group and other leading disruptors have gone about finding and developing their disruptive sweet spots.