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Think Like a Startup and Join the Disruptors

Disruption is one of today’s hot topics. We take a look at what it means, how to survive in a disrupted world and what to do when everything can change so quickly that all the rules get thrown out overnight.

We live in a world where things are changing so rapidly that it is no longer enough to simply keep up with competitors. Companies must challenge themselves to think beyond what is possible today and look at what they can do to ‘change the game’.

Businesses must disrupt themselves in order to keep up with technology, or risk having a ‘Kodak’ moment. This means asking the challenging questions about what your business will do to not only catch up, but to remain relevant in an ever changing world. You have to think big rather than coming up with variations on the status quo. If you find yourself emulating other businesses or grabbing someone else’s innovative solution, you’re probably missing the big prize.

Consider Uber’s disruption of the taxi sector. Unlike most taxi companies, Uber doesn’t own cars and or employ drivers. What it does do is offer a similar service with a superior user experience and at a lower price to its competitors.  

What was the big question Uber asked of itself when it started out?– “How do we make money by disrupting the taxi sector?” or the more challenging question, “How do we take cars off the road?”  

Uber didn’t stop at taking on the taxi sector. The company went on to launch its rideshare service and is now disrupting other businesses with UberEATS. No longer do food services, or any other business that transports items door-to-door, need to own cars, employ drivers or even have agreements with courier companies. They order an Uber as and when they need it.

So, how does a company define its big question – the question so big it forces a fundamental rethink? The question the new start-ups are already working through?

When coming up with the key question, successful disruptors look at things in a different way. The real innovators study themselves, their market, eco-system, and especially what their customers want. They dive deeply into what other disruptors have done and challenge themselves to achieve a big, bold vision. Crucially, they imagine a world unimpeded by constraints, and then find a way of achieving what’s not possible in the current conditions, by altering the conditions. That’s changing the game, and that’s what makes them successful.  

At Voco, we’ve observed at close hand companies who have survived and prospered through digital disruption by learning to think and act as if they are a start-up. This means continuously exploring new business models, developing better customer experiences, working in an agile manner and thinking about things in a different way.

They also have the right people around the table, often making permanent space at the board level to champion the digital journey. Not only will that person ensure the board asks the right questions of the executive but they are well positioned to help move the company up the digital scale. In our experience, what works best is having your CEO, CIO, experienced experts, and young digital talent working together – and then providing lots of room for innovation.

Start-ups can more easily leverage innovation, agility, and experimentation (with some risk taking), while incumbents leverage capital, brand, and customer base. If incumbents can reimagine their business as a start up and learn the strategic and operational dynamics of disruptors, they can have the best of both worlds.

To discuss the topic further, please get in touch with the author, Paul Gordon, on 021 718 190.

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