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In the past, disruption was considered an edge case that affected only those with weak market positions. Entrenched organizations relied on their market dominance to retain their top dog status. Today, disruption has become a fundamental component of every industry. Appearing as both a threat and an opportunity, disruptive innovations have created an unprecedented rapid evolution of how industries operate, laying waste to some while pivoting others to staggering success. To understand how to harness this ongoing digital innovation revolution and position your organization for success in a post-industrial world, consider implementing the following four ideals.

1. Challenging Orthodoxies

Orthodoxies can be considered as the software that runs both individuals and organizations. They represent a set of rules, cultures, and mindsets that govern every action an entity makes. While this mindset was essential to the industrial age, today it represents a threat. Consider the assembly line in a Ford Motor Company factory in the 1970’s. Static orthodoxies ensured the assembly line worked efficiently and outputted consistent results. Fast forward to a startup in Silicon Valley, and you find a radically different mindset.

In Silicon Valley, you will find a culture of consistently challenging the status quo. Pushing the limits of what both technology and people can achieve. By harnessing this radical rethinking and recalibrating of resources, startups are disrupting entire industries in a matter of months. Organizations seeking to be at the forefront of this technological revolution must, therefore, be willing to adopt a culture of challenging orthodoxies and rapidly updating the cultural and organizational software on which their organizations run.

2. Harnessing Trends

Most Silicon Valley unicorns (startups with a valuation of over $1 billion before going public) have one thing in common, they all took advantage of massive trends to disrupt industries. Consider Airbnb, a startup that is currently disrupting the global hotel industry. The startup took advantage of a trend where travelers were looking for better accommodation options and hotels were digging into the status quo. Uber also took advantage of the rise in the sharing economy to disrupt the traditional taxi business.

Both startups rode these trends, hitting an inflection point where product-market fit resulted in the capturing of billion-dollar opportunities. While it is ever unclear whether a trend will evolve into a disruptive force, organizations nevertheless must be ready to use the power of discontinuous change to substantially alter the rules of the game and drive industry disruption. Understanding the DNA behind Silicon Valley unicorns can provide the insight and impetus for senior executives to champion a digital-first trend-catching culture in their organizations.

Exclusive interview with innovation expert, Rowan Gibson, on navigating today’s world of digital innovation.

3. Leveraging Resources

Wildly successful gaming companies like King, the makers of Candy Crush, and Supercell, the makers of Clash of Clans, continue to disrupt the gaming industry by repurposing and recombining core competencies and strategic assets. They have done so by rethinking how to leverage their core resources, ditching traditional organizational structures for highly productive and nimble project-based clusters.

This type of organizational innovation is employed in massive disruptive companies like Google and Microsoft as well. Organizations seeking to disrupt their industries and capture nascent opportunities presented by digital innovations must reorganize their assets and resources to stretch into new digital opportunities. Only by doing so can they turn would-be threats into strategic opportunities to drive growth and innovation.

4. Understanding Needs

The late Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying that customers did not know what they want. Considering he built one of the United States’ most valuable company, these words must ring true. Rapid innovation in the technology space has given rise to a new breed of customers who want the next thing now. This conundrum represents a significant threat for organizations that do not understand what this next thing is.

New and emerging technologies like big data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) have created an entirely novel way of peering into the future and anticipating what customers need. By understanding customer behavior at a granular level, organizations can create predictive models of what the next big thing is. Such models will help organizations identify the unmet needs of digitally connected customers, helping them reverse-engineer tailored solutions starting from these anticipated needs, unlocking new billion-dollar opportunities.


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