Just Forget Innovation: Think Disruption Instead


It’s Official, Folks: The Time For Disruption Is Here

You know how they say that the moment that you publish a book, it’s outdated? Well, for innovation, that’s doubly true. While my book, Innovation Mastery, The Definitive Guide to Running the Ultimate Innovation Program has only been out for a few months, I realized that we had moved beyond innovation into a completely new space.


Yes, you are seeing that term thrown around a lot these days, and not without cause. We are truly seeing forces, mostly technological, create new businesses, products, services and whole sectors, which never existed before, solving real issues with institutions who have been around forever, stockpiled with legions of ShouldWes, blocking our path to an awesomely useful future, created by a wonderful army of DoIts.

Last weekend, I attended the Summerfest jazz festival here in San Jose. Knowing that traffic and parking would be nuts, we decided to use Lyft to get down to the stages, about a $8 drive away. As I had an interesting conversation with the driver, I realized that this business could never have existed, had we not had a number of systems in place in order to let those businesses be created. Without ubiquitous, always-on, internet access, Google Maps, smartphones & apps, none of which existed prior to 2008, this business, in this form, could not exist. All of those foundational services needed to be in place before this business could have even been envisioned. Additionally, the thought of using tech to access underutilized resources, personally I feel strikes a chord in humanity – bringing us back to almost tribal times, when one of our member possessed a tool we needed in order to complete a task, we borrowed it. It speaks to something I think most humans have in common, a desire to help (and of course, to make money from it).

But I digress. I’ve talked before about why I feel the sharing economy is so powerful. But that’s just one disruption. Everywhere we look, in every space, from education, to banking, to retail, to hospitality, to entertainment, and yes even to government.

This is nothing new. Back in the days before cable TV, enterprising cable TV proto-barons took the signal from their antennas and ran it to their neighbors and charged them for it, starting the first cable TV companies. There were no laws to stop them back then – no one had ever done it before, and by the time the TV stations whose signal was being stolen figured it out, it was too late and they were an essential part of the economy. That was Permissionless Innovation: you had an idea, you built it and launched it and attempted to get so much traction so quickly that you where unstoppable. Uber used this tactic, and they were able to successfully turn back efforts from the taxi unions and the cities to push back against their businesses.

As I said up top: Innovation is passe. The time for disruption is here. No one cares about a tiny little incremental innovation which makes your product or service slightly better. What we care about are huge, game changing ideas which blow up the status quo, make haters (you know how they say that “where there is smoke, there is fire”: if you see outrage and hatred against a product, service or company, that may lead you to some of the most interesting, innovative and disruptive ideas out there), and bust up old, non-customer-friendly institutions.

Disruption can be a prime mover in ANY space. Literally. Each and every industry, no matter what it is, can be disrupted, by using the latest technologies. And every space will be disrupted, the only question is when and by whom. To answer the when question, look at the following criteria:

  1. Many unhappy customers. Providing a better experience of the same or better service, will bring those customers to you
  2. How easy is it to build what you are trying to do? If its an app plus a software infrastructure, then that is easier than needing to manufacture something
  3. Can you leverage the crowd – basically becoming a go-between which matches supply to demand? That’s gold.

I can’t single out specific industries to target, since its my belief that every industry is targetable, and really maybe the only other factor which may help you make your decision is what you are interested in or passionate about and what you are good at. As I’ve said before, the combination of skill, passion and demand will help anyone succeed.

So, I ask you, what are you waiting for? If you are not out there already planning your next billion dollar business, why aren’t you? Since literally every field is in the process of being disrupted, now is the perfect time to find or start that business to do just that.

There has never been a better time to disrupt things in the process, make life a lot better.

Now, some of you fear disruption. You may be working at one of those companies which is in the cross-hairs of one of these disruptive companies, and are worried about where your next paycheck is going to come from if something should happen. This is a very valid concern. Unfortunately, there is little to nothing that we can do to change this. All we can do is to make ourselves resilient, embrace the changes as they occur, and bounce back better than ever. We are moving from a time when planning was important, to a time when resilience will rule.

Disruption is coming. Time to roll with it.