What Successful Disruptors Like Uber Know

Tim Girgenti

The innovative spirit is more powerful than ever, and it’s providing unprecedented opportunities for growth and revenue. Take Uber as an example. Uber provides a solution to a real problem that impacts millions of people. Not many who use a traditional taxi service would call it enjoyable — it’s simply something people dealt with due to the lack of an alternative. Before Uber you were beholden to an entrenched, monopolistic entity that had little motivation to create a great customer experience. In all sense of the word Uber has disrupted the taxi cab transportation model that existed in many cities and reinvented the experience from top to bottom.

Another example, while not new, is proof that any industry can be turned sideways, and not necessarily due to technology but a creative business approach. Cirque du Soleil didn’t achieve its tremendous success by competing with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Instead of competing for the same set of buyers, Cirque du Soleil targeted an entirely new segment of latent buyers. Instead of targeting children, it targeted adults and corporate clients prepared to pay much higher prices for this new entertainment experience. And in just 20 years, Cirque’s performances have been seen by more than 100 million people. The company created a whole new category of entertainment with its unique business model.

And then there’s Amazon, where you can find and discover virtually anything you want to buy online and have your purchases at your doorstep in record time. By focusing on giving customers what they want—low prices, vast selection, and convenience—Amazon.com continues to grow and evolve as a world-class e-commerce platform.

The list of incredible innovators goes on and on. Yet, while innovation can quickly reinvent or create new industries and new jobs, it can crush others. In fact, in the last 10 years we witnessed 70 percent turnover of the Fortune 1000 companies. In other words, nearly three-fourths of the existing captains of industry fell from their thrones. How do you avoid being one of them? How can you make a difference at your company?

One way is to emulate the practices that help define those businesses that are able to adapt to disruption and even create significant new opportunities from change. What do successful disruptors know? By adopting these practices, you can make a difference at your company:

    • Question the status quo
    • Know your customers
    • Stay ahead of the changing landscape
    • Understand that disruption affects the entire business

The airline industry has certainly experienced its share of disruption and change. From deregulation, the establishment and success of low cost carriers, fluctuating fuel costs, shifting global economic power, and demographic changes to the need to revamp the current destructive airline distribution system, the airline industry has seen it all.

What level of disruption is happening in your business? Are you positioned to disrupt your industry, or will you be a victim to innovation? Are you looking at your current strategy and organization and prepared for whatever the future holds?

As Warren Buffet once said, “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

By making changes in how your business acts today, you can potentially avoid a future downturn. Now is the time to evolve how your company thinks. Not doing so will make it hard to grow, and nearly impossible to survive a disruption.

In part two of my blog series, I’ll take a closer look at the practices of successful disruptors with tips for using this information to lead your company.

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