I did a talk on digital disruption last year, and I asked those in the audience to raise their hands if they thought their industry had experienced, or will experience digital disruption (as in – a new digital solution enters their market and makes their products less worthwhile and/or totally shakes up the product offerings). Maybe 10 or 20% of hands went up.
“I have news for you – you are ALL being (or have already been) digitally disrupted; no one is immune !” I said. A few people came up to me afterwards and agreed. A few probably went away thinking I was a nutter.
Digital disruption does not necessarily bring bad news; new digital platforms and services offer the ability to grow faster, enter new markets that would have been too expensive otherwise, save costs, build in efficiencies, etc. It’s not just about someone new coming in and eating your lunch. It could be about new opportunities for your business.
I think the people who should worry most are those who are not worrying. (My dad’s brain tumour 20 years ago is a strong analogy here – it was at its most dangerous when none of us, including Dad, knew it was there; once we knew what was there, it could be dealt with, and was).
Hence my advice would be:
- Stay close to your customers – their needs are shifting (right now) – are you sure you know what they want, why they use you, how these needs are changing?
- Always be on the lookout for new ways of getting to market, gaining efficiencies, growing new services… using digital (example – could you now offer services over east where before you needed a physical office there? Or even into SE Asia or Europe, but do it from Perth?)
- Never assume you are safe from new entrants; assume your cash cow is under attack right now. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Industries are littered with players who were in seemingly impregnable positions, and fell over quite quickly (Kodak, Blockbuster, Post Offices, …)
- How to do this? Get out to events and talk to those doing the disrupting; go to startup events, talk with programmers, talk with Gen Ys and even younger – there are many such things around Perth
- Read, read, read – there’s no excuse these days; get an Audible.com account (first month is free, then it’s only $15/mth) and download business books so you can listen to them in the car, doing the gardening, sitting in the dentists’ waiting room, whatever…
- Experiment with new tech, but on a small scale; learn by doing; encourage an innovative and ‘hackathons’ culture internally to get new solutions up quickly – don’t worry about the perfect product, have a ‘hackathon day’ when people attack a problem, and see what creativity ensues
follow blogs, learn to comment and maybe start a blog yourself (wordpress is free); open a twitter account (meet loads of people that way, see what they are saying); great way to spread your message, listen and learn
- As a leader, set the best example; present ideas to the team, encourage them to bring them forward and discuss them. Encourage them to do the above points as well.
This year, and for many more besides, may I wish you the best of fortune as you navigate the paths, travails and pitfalls of digital disruption…
Photo Credit: Attila Csaszar of Business News