The New Yorker’s Jill Lepore writes eloquently about the impact of the ‘cult like’ followers of Clayton Christensen’s theory ‘Disruptive Innovation’ an answer to the question why do organisations fail ?
In a nutshell this theory holds that the organisations cited in the research failed because they didn’t defend themselves properly against ‘disruptors’ , they had their backs turned and missed critical market trends, consumer need or technology advances- they themselves failed to disrupt and were disrupted.
Disruption is about a competitor winning out by breaking the market rules; technologies and engineering advances are usually in some way part of a disruptive story. Businesses making computer floppy disks or camera film for example failed to keep themselves invested in a developing future- someone came along and exploited the consumer need with shiny new stuff and BOOM…. bye bye old, hello the new.
The New Yorker article is interesting because it rightly talks about disruption being more descriptive than predictive and therefore not hugely useful as a means of analysing a corporate strategy or innovation plan-
Nonetheless, when you think about the industry you’re in, the stuff you make or sell, the services you offer and the needs of your customers- it pays to keep a eye on what might be around the corner. Disruption is an increasingly common outcome of new dot.com business models- the web and mobile technologies means B2C and B2B divisions have blurred- companies and customers can connect directly without the need for middleware- and the pace of technological change, consumer power etc means the urgency and as Lepore would have it ‘panic’ is reaching fever pitch.
Peer to peer lenders like Funding Circle in the UK are a good example of new dot.com business model disruptors. Funding Circle model connects lenders direct to borrowers through an online platform, disrupting the traditional role played by the banks for small business lending. So far over 30,000 small businesses have chosen this route over the bank; the thin edge of a disruptive wedge ? Interestingly several banks are investing in these new online investment platforms- an anti disruption tactic ?
Similarly airbnb and homeaway two great examples of a direct channel disrupting the old ways of renting rooms and holiday homes.
I guess the lesson of the New Yorker article is that while it may not provide you a crystal ball, disruption is an unavoidable lens through which to consider our present and to critique our strategies.