Choose Your Position Wisely: Disruptor or Disrupted?
In today's environment, businesses can choose to be the disruptor or the disrupted, according to Linda Popky, president of Redwood Shores, CA-based strategic marketing firm Leverage2Market Associates, and author of the book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing That Matters.
"The success of such companies as AirBNB and Uber taught us that even seemingly mature industries can be disrupted by new players and business models. In today's environment, businesses should determine whether they can take on the role of disruptor, or ride the coat tails of the initial disruptor in the market, as Lyft has done with Uber. What you don't want is to be the taxi drivers stomping their feet and saying, 'This isn't fair!'
"The key is to find ways to change your business, focus on unfulfilled customer needs, and look at innovative ways to provide products and services—before you are faced with a new competitor breathing down your neck," she said.
Agile Companies Embrace Disruption
According to Amanda Setili, managing partner of strategy consulting firm Setili & Associates, "Many of our clients, especially in the financial technology, professional services, and consumer services sectors, are being pummeled by smaller, fast moving competitors that deliver free or ultra-low cost alternatives to our clients' core, profitable products.
"Sure, the competitors' 'free' versions aren't quite as good as what our clients offer, but nevertheless, a certain group of customers will defect, never to be regained. Think free credit reports, $59 airfares, and $15 per hour engineering services.
"Disruptors often create immense value for the customer, but decimate industries in the process. It can be scary, but the worst response is to get frozen in your tracks.
My book, The Agility Advantage, How to Identify and Act On Opportunities in a Fast-Changing World, shares several effective approaches for dealing with disruptors. One of the most powerful, though counter-intuitive, strategies is to join forces. Partnering with a disruptor can enable you to improve your customers' experience and even reach new customers," she said.
Welcome To the Robot Hotel
Dr. Maynard Brusman, a consulting psychologist, executive coach, and emotional intelligence and mindful leadership expert, notes, "We live in what many global leaders refer to as 'VUCA times'—times of unprecedented change characterized by global Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. These VUCA times ignite new expressions of creativity, entrepreneurial spirit, and innovation."
According to Dr. Brusman, "Virtual reality, 3D printing, drones, wearables, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices are impacting businesses. Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming of age as business leaders grasp the immense potential of 'smart' machines and 'thinking' as catalysts for greater competitiveness. The world's first hotel staffed almost entirely by robots opened in Japan."
Dr. Brusman advises clients, "Company leaders need to change the culture of the company to help employees embrace change, and implement disruptive innovations. Innovative companies need to perpetually reinvent themselves for a sustainable future."
Volatility is the Norm
Negative interest rates. Low oil prices The war-torn Middle East. Europe drowning in refugees without a plan. The approaching US elections with candidate debates unlike those in the past.
According to Rebecca A Morgan, President of Cleveland-based Manufacturing consulting company, Fulcrum Consulting Works, we have faced volatility before, and will again. The only thing we can predict with assurance is volatility.
Morgan adds: "That means we must position our businesses to quickly and effectively change course, and we must know when to act.
"Moving any business forward requires conviction, even in turbulent conditions. Conviction, however, does not mean one should disregard the possibilities. Tread where you have knowledge, experience, and reliable information. Do NOT jump into the deep end when you cannot swim. We can describe the majority of risks we will face in the next 18 months, so think those through right now. Sure, we can be blindsided, but being caught unaware by the volatility that we can already name is inexcusable.
"Succeeding in volatile times is really no different than during stable periods. Keep your eyes open, realistically assess your capabilities and vulnerabilities, move forward with conviction, but not fatuity," she added.
Speed and Innovation are Key
"I advise my clients navigating disruptors to constantly improve the speed and power of their organization's innovation engine," says Alan Willett, a leading expert in the business of technology and author of the forthcoming book, Leading the Unleadable.
"The majority of my clients are in the business of technology; thus, they are simultaneously leading disruptions and dealing with disruptions on multiple fronts. These could be the tools and methods being used to create products. Or, these could be competitors disrupting the same marketplace that they are also disrupting themselves.
"I provide my best clients with what they need to be masters of friction points within the business of technology. Through this, they develop the necessary mastery of their technology development and the deep understanding of what customers need, even when they don't yet know it. It is this mastery that powers the innovation engine," Willett said.
Keep Your Head While Others Lose Theirs
"Turbulence creates opportunities for strategic growth when you are the disruptor instead of the disrupted," notes Gary Patterson, the FiscalDoctor® and author of Million Dollar Blind Spots: 20/20 Vision for Financial Growth.
"To be appropriately prepared, meet regulatory compliance objectives, and maintain best practices, you must have accurate measurements that provide quantitative assessments. Those measurements can be used to answer a variety of critical questions, including where your organization stands, what should be improved, and what progress is being made against key strategic initiatives. The key is determining the question on which to focus attention to ensure success."
Remain Calm and Carry On
"Disruptors are commonplace in today's new normal business environment," points out Lisa Anderson, known as The Manufacturing ConnectorSM and president of LMA Consulting Group, Inc., Claremont, CA. Dramatic fluctuations in exchange rates can throw executives for a loop. Sinking oil prices provide opportunities for manufacturers relying on oil-based materials. Potential new composite materials threaten some aerospace suppliers. And, Amazon's rapid delivery performance creates tension throughout manufacturing and distribution companies!
"Remain calm and keep your eyes open for opportunities. It is amazing how often this simple strategy gains results. For example, one building product manufacturer client took advantage of hiring top talent during the bottom of the recession – when the industry was decimated and consumed with cutting costs. This talent created a new line of products that will open doors into new market segments. Another client remained vigilant on R&D while the competition slashed labor; therefore, they had new products to introduce to a hungry market. Instead of seeing every disruptor as a problem, look for hidden opportunities. Not only will your employees be more engaged but you'll likely leapfrog the competition."
The Real Disruptors Are Not Those in the News
The disrupters are not what we may think, according to SAC CEO Alan Weiss, PhD.
"It's not Brexit, the U.S. election, Chinese claims of extended territory. They are more likely to revolve around the extended shifts in the jobs required by our information economy, the need to revamp our public schools, and ineffective tax laws that require improvement. I'd recommend that company leadership find strong sources of talent, work to retain top talent proactively, and increase financial liquidity," he said.