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Being disruptive in business is a good thing


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If you were the type of pupil who was always in trouble in class because of your disruptive behaviour, you’ve probably got some very negative connotations about the word “disruptive”.

But in the world of technology, as well as in the world of business, being disruptive is actually a very important trait to have.

Usually a technology that comes along and causes disruption to an industry is a complete surprise to everyone within that industry. Perhaps the greatest example of this in the last few years is the rise of digital media and streaming.

It has taken the music industry over a decade to get used to the concept of streaming after trying in vain to try and maintain the status quo and hold back the tide of technology through unsuccessful piracy lawsuits, rather than adapting their business model to make the most of the new tech.

The big music labels are still here (for now) and although they might have to downsize somewhat, it looks like they will probably survive the transition to digital. Not so lucky were Blockbuster who – although they could already see what the music industry was going through – acted far too slowly to adapt their business to the streaming video model in order to survive. They even had the opportunity in the early 2000s to buy Netflix for $50 million and blew it.

So what lessons can your business learn from disruption?

Firstly it is important to keep up-to-date with all sorts of new technology, as the chances are good that the next tech development that will revolutionise your industry will actually come from outside of it. For example, no-one at Blockbuster had the foresight to connect their DVD rental business with the fact that in 1999, P2P technology was already making it possible to download songs for free.

Instead of being proactive and creating a streaming video solution they chose to just ignore that the technology would eventually change their industry too. So the second bit of advice is to make your move as early as possible rather than sitting around and waiting for changes to come to you.

Next you will need to monitor your competitors very closely. Have they just purchased a new business that doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with their current competencies or maybe launched an unusual new product? They might have a better sense of where the market is headed than you do, or maybe they are just making a big mistake. Either way, know about it or research it further.

Finally, pay close attention to what your customers are doing. Are they starting to drift away from your business? If so, has anyone actually bothered to try and find out why they are going? Perhaps your product is no longer fit for purpose and the market has moved on. Unless you know the reasons why your customer numbers are dwindling, there isn’t much you can do about it.

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