Will technology’s next big innovation be your company’s downfall?
It’s a scenario that gets played over and over in the corporate world.
One moment a company is riding high, the next it’s struggling to exist, its business model disrupted by new technology and a failure to keep up with an ever-changing competitive landscape.
Take as one example Nokia, which at one time ruled the roost in the mobile-phone market, able to boast in the late 1990s that it was the world’s largest cellphone maker.
But when Apple introduced its iPhone in 2007, Nokia proved too slow to adapt as the market, the technology and the competition began to evolve. Over the next several years, Nokia became an also-ran in an industry it previously dominated.
History is replete with similar stories, and you can expect more in the future as technology continues to advance at a head-spinning rate, says Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity.com, co-founder of Kayak.com, and author of the new book “Disruption OFF: The Technological Disruption Coming for Your Company and What to Do About It.”
“Our constantly changing world is disrupting what many businesses do, whether it’s photography, the book industry, the music industry or many others,” Jones says. “In the business world, change is inevitable, but success is optional.”
He says, “Technological change can come quickly. For example, 90% of hearing aids are now produced by 3D printing and that change happened in just four years. Companies that didn’t make the change are no longer with us.”
That doesn’t mean any particular company is necessarily doomed, though.
“There are a surprising number of 100-year-old companies out there,” he says. “Most of the ones I’ve talked to have mastered the ability to shed their old skin and renew themselves when required.”
Jones lists a few ways that businesses can avoid becoming a disruption casualty:
BE WILLING TO TAKE RISKS
“Your company was probably founded on risk, but you don’t take risks anymore,” Jones said. “But you have to take risks to move forward.” He said he speaks with many corporations that are envious of the speed with which Silicon Valley startups make decisions. “These nimble companies are constantly trying, failing, changing and moving on,” he said. “Disruption is in their DNA. Most larger corporations are not like that. They generally are deliberative, risk averse and ponderously slow. They focus on delivery more than discovery. That approach might have worked in a time of limited disruption, but not today.”
CREATE A CULTURE OPEN TO NEW IDEAS
“Many businesses are stuck in corporate pinball,” Jones said. By that he means: Each time someone dreams up a new idea, that idea gets bounced from department to department, as if it’s hitting the bumpers of a giant pinball machine. Each department finds a reason to say no to the idea, which eventually ends up in the gutter. He emphasized, “You have to stop closing the door and saying no. Your job is to get the idea to the finish line. To get it over, to say yes.”
BECOME A DISRUPTER YOURSELF
In this world of disruption, it’s unlikely your largest competitor will be your undoing, Jones said. The problem is those 5,000 to 6,000 new startups per year that are attacking the traditional world. “You need to put their ideas to work and become a disruptor yourself,” he said.
“Disruption and innovation really are two sides of the same coin. You just call it a disruption because you didn’t do it.”
“A company may currently be strong and it may be run by intelligent executives, but the question is whether it’s adaptable enough to change,” Jones said. “Even more important, is the company proactively preparing for change? If so, it’s more likely to survive and maybe even thrive.”