Is Disruption Good or Bad for Your Business?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On November 2, 2018

Business Disruption

It seems that every time you turn around these days, you’ll hear business owners and experts talking about disruption.  We’re familiar with disruptive companies. Apple forever changed the way that people bought and listened to music when they introduced the iPod (when’s the last time you saw one of those?). Amazon revolutionized the way people shop (remember when they were all about selling books?) Disruption isn’t unusual anymore—it’s the norm. The way business is done has changed forever and it’s going to keep changing. Disruption can bring incredible opportunity or it can kill your company. Is disruption good or bad for your business?

Will You Disrupt or Will You Be Disrupted?

Your answer to the question about disruption being good or bad for your business will depend upon which side of the disruption you’re on. If your goal is to revolutionize your business (and maybe your industry) and scale your company to take advantage of your competitive advantage, disruption can be great. If, on the other hand, you find your company being disrupted by changes in the marketplace; you may well be looking at the end of your business.

You may think that you’re in a “safe” industry—one that’s stable and not subject to a lot of change. Think again. In a recent MITSloan Management Review article, Megan Beck and Barry Libert challenged that assumption.

A number of industries seem to be “safe” from disruption, but often the markets most at risk do not see it coming. Who would have predicted, for example, that Amazon would follow its acquisition of Whole Foods Market with a jump into healthcare?

There are plenty of other examples of well-established industries scrambling for survival in a changing world. Newspapers and magazines (especially those that didn’t embrace online technologies years ago) are finding it extremely difficult to compete with the 24/7 capabilities of online services. Hundred-year-old institutions are closing their doors.

The music industry got blindsided by technology. Apple was a computer company, right? What impact would they possibly have on music? The iPod (along with other technologies, such as Napster) completely reshaped the industry.

AT&T traces it’s history back to the 1880s. And while they advanced some of the technology involved in telecommunications, they got blindsided by the avalanche of wireless technology. As of January 2017, 52 percent of U.S. adults live in households with no landline phones. People still talk on the phone, but the way they do it has changed. That’s disruption!

Even companies that were considered innovative and disruptive businesses are keeping a wary eye on disruption. IBM recently reported that 85 percent of business relationships will be managed without human interaction by 2020 and that 90 percent of executives anticipate their industries will be disrupted by digital trends.

Disruption is the New Normal

Those examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Disruption is the new normal. As a business leader, you have to decide whether your company will be disrupting or be disrupted. It’s not a one-time challenge, either. It’s something you’ll battle forever. It requires a change in your mindset.

How Can You Prepare Yourself?

One of the things I do as a business coach is to help growing businesses make sure that their goals, vision, strategies, and execution are aligned and are in sync with the needs of their markets. Business leaders are often so focused on running the business that they forget to take the time to evaluate business alignment. That doesn’t “just happen”—it needs to be intentional.

If you’re looking to scale up your company to become a disruptive force, you need to have a clear idea of where you are and what needs to change. To that end, I’d encourage you to click on the orange “Business Not Growing?” button below to take a 5-minute assessment that will let you know how your company is doing in areas that are critical for scaling your business.