Sunday Morning Disruptive Technology – How to be a ‘disrupter’

EdisonElectricCar1913As you may have gathered I love disruptive technology, or at least the term anyway. But what does it mean, what do you have to do to be a disrupter and what can you do if you’re an incumbent?

Smart Planet, the home of some excellent journalism on technology and design produced a good article on “How to be the ‘disrupter’ and not the ‘disrupted’”.

What is a disruptive technology?

The broadest definition is – new dynamic companies or entrepreneurs are coming into the market with lower cost options at an every increasing speed and chasing the dinosaur like incumbents upstream.

Basically if something new can be brought to market before an incumbent can catch up then it is said to be a disruptive technology – it disrupts our ingrained models.

There are many examples of recent disruptive technologies, so I won’t list them all but the biggest element I like most about the disruptions they can cause big step changes in our lives. I like this because it is what our planet needs. If we can get some awesome low footprint disruptive technologies going we might have a chance.

So how do we do this? Well, Smart Planet had a few suggestions for how to be a disrupter.

How to be disruptive?

The new breed of disrupters share some common characteristics the authors note:

  • Unencumbered development: While employees at traditional companies are constrained within 9-to-5 routines, the engineers and developers at disruptive companies often are gathering for late-night “hackathons,” and are trying to outdo one another with new products and innovations, which are rolled out in a rapid-fire manner. There’s lots of room for experimentation and failure. Twitter started out this way.
  • Unconstrained growth: “Big-bang disruptions collapse the product life cycle we know,” Downes and Nunes point out. The five distinct customer segments—innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards — are slashed down to two segments: “trial users, who often participate in product development, and everyone else.”
  • New product cycles: Traditional companies have months-long and years-long cycles of innovation, in which new ideas are vetted, approved, developed, tested, and brought to market. “The innovators collectively get it wrong, wrong, wrong—and then unbelievably right,” Downes and Nunes point out.
  • Undisciplined strategy: Traditional companies have carefully laid-out plans and strategies, with different departments handling various phases of R&D, operations and sales, all being constantly tweaked to attain optimum results. “Big-bang disrupters, however, are thoroughly undisciplined,” say Downes and Nunes. “They start life with better performance at a lower price and greater customization. They compete with mainstream products right from the start.”

3 things you can you do if you’re an incumbent?

1. Accelerate your product cycles – when it comes to disruptive technologies ditch the traditional business plan model

2. Release the shackles of constraint – disruptive technology innovations won’t happen in a 9 to 5 office environment, let the shackles go

3. Offshot to disrupt – if lack of discipline, relaxed work ethics and alternative business models can’t be allowed in your incumbent then offshot a start up. Create a new business that may end up competing with you and taking away future business, but at least you will own it!

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