Illuminating Disruption

by | Apr 26, 2016 | Business | 0 comments

OK, by now you will have observed that every single start-up, small business, and entrepreneur is claiming to be disruptive, but that claim always falls apart as soon as it’s dissected in any reasonable way.

Firstly, let me explain that as a small business person and entrepreneurial-minded person it’s a good idea for you to recognize that disruption isn’t just a main-stream buzzword.  In fact, disruption theory has been around for a loooooong time.  Matter of fact, consider the 1908 Ford Model T; the first hugely disruptive innovation of the modern business era.

Back to disruption…the first thing to understand is that there’s 2 ways to be disruptive; define a new market or address over-served customers.  It’s totally possible for a product to be both but let’s stick to the main course for this entry.

Firstly, defining a new market is known as just that; new market disruption.  It basically means it’s a brand new product or service that has to compete against people deciding it’s dumb, irrelevant, and not worth buying.  The friendly way to put it is “Non-Consumption”.  Essentially it becomes available in a way that the existing competition isn’t.  It could be cheaper, internationally available or some other advantage that now makes this product accessible where it wasn’t before.

So you can’t go around claiming that you’re all disruptive in new markets when the vast majority of your customers are able to use existing products.

The second way to be disruptive is through low-end disruption; when a product steals the cheapest and worst customers from the bottom of an exiting market by figuring out a business model that works with a lower cost base offering.  This happens when everything available on the market is being produced far and above what the customers actual want or really need in a product.

To summarize low-end disruption, the product is obviously lower in quality but the consumer doesn’t care.

There’s a good example I dug up around a camera company that stole customers from the big digital camera companies by being more affordable and simpler to use.  It started doing really well until it turned out there was an even lower quality camera and an even lower price point people were willing to use.  That’s right; the camera in your phone.  Boom.  Broke.  Market Disrupted.

Both models, when considered for what they are, should appeal to small businesses who really look to innovate within their space. But please, don’t think the success of your business with whether or not you disrupt anything.  You can go head to head with anyone and win with better tech, better price, better service, you name it as long as it gives you a competitive advantage.

And really, that’s what disruption is: a competitive advantage.

So if you claim disruption make sure you’ve got 3 things written down:

  1. How is it disruptive -> this will help you measure when you’re succeeding or not
  2. Keep track of time -> you might start seeing your lunch getting eaten if you don’t keep moving
  3. If cheap is your angle, that’s not disrupting anyone or anything.  That’s just cheap.

“Disruption” is a buzz-word now because you’re living in a technological miracle of a time.  Don’t just sit back and enjoy the change, get thinking about where you can fit in or find a new model.  The world needs progress and it isn’t going to just happen unless we all push it along.

Thanks for reading!


**GammaWorks: Advancing the awareness and acceptance of practical technology for small & medium businesses. Hosted and managed data collection and reporting platforms.**