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Man in a meeting cheering for his innovative approach in front of his computer.

Are you practicing disruptive innovation to approach your business goals? If not, it's time to start thinking about an innovation strategy.

Whenever there's talk about the movers and shakers of the business world, disruptive innovation is often thrown around as a hot buzzword. But what does it actually mean, and how can brands leverage this kind of thinking to gain a competitive edge?

While disruptive innovation can be a tricky concept to grasp, it's all about identifying changes in your market and using them to your advantage. So, let's clarify a few things about disruptive innovation and lay out how to use it to help your business audaciously accelerate forward.

What is disruptive innovation?

In its broadest sense, disruptive innovation is a new service or product that's unconventional. Over time, due to various factors—such as lower cost, better performance, or greater accessibility—disruptive innovation "disrupts" the market, replacing existing services or products in the same industry. It can help businesses identify new ways to solve problems or meet customer needs in a new way. Take, for example, the disruptive invention of 3D printing.

3D printing technology has transformed the 12 billion-dollar manufacturing industry. Complex parts and components previously too expensive or difficult to produce can now be created quickly and cheaply. New parts that used to take weeks to order and ship can now be printed on-site in a matter of hours. And 3D printing isn't only disrupting manufacturing—companies in all industries are continuing to find new ways to use this technology, pushing the boundaries of what's possible.

While traditional innovation focuses on improving existing products and services, disruptive innovation forces businesses to look beyond what already exists. Disruption challenges the status quo to find new ways of doing things.

A look at the growth trends in incumbent vs disruptive innovations.

Disruptive Innovation as an Approach to Business Challenges

Do you want to disrupt the status quo? Do you strive to shake up your industry?

If you want to develop a disruption strategy, you need a plan. This roadmap will plot out where you are now and where you want to be. With a concrete brand and product innovation strategy in place, you can foresee potential disruption looming on the horizon and use it to your advantage. Here's how you can jump-start your journey.

Determine your USP.

What's the secret behind disruptive innovation? Is there a hidden formula?

The answer, unfortunately, is no. Sure, we could be here all day debating which technology or brand has defined disruptive innovation. But, in reality, the answer lies in finding your unique selling point (USP) and turning your customers into loyal fans.

Let your USP guide you to find ways to better connect with customers. Maybe it's through new technology like virtual reality (VR) or machine learning (ML). Whether these new ways of engaging customers prove disruptive or not, the goal is to remain true to your mission and values and focus on customer experience.

Ultimately, to lead the charge in disruptive innovation, you need to understand what about your business makes it revolutionary and how you can use that information to stand out. This will help you adapt to the evolving needs of your customers and allow innovation and disruption to develop organically. Instead of concentrating on market disruption as an end goal, focus on understanding what your customers need, and then delivering on those needs.

Learn how to identify business disruption.

Do you know business disruption when you see it? Innovation can come in many forms, and at any time, so you need to be quick to spot potential opportunities when they present themselves.

Where is disruption lurking?

The markets most prone to disruption have typically been home to large, long-standing, companies monopolizing the industry. These corporate giants feel they own the market and don't need to change anything. Unfortunately, this hubris leaves them vulnerable to being overthrown by new startups with even more innovative solutions. We've seen this with industry behemoths like Blockbuster Video, Xerox, and Nokia. These brands took too long to update their existing products or services—or took their position in the market for granted—which made them susceptible to disruption.

About half of Fortune 500 companies with disappear in the next decade.
This is because of business and market disruptors.

So, how can you keep a pulse on disruptive innovation?

Be proactive. Get strategic about consumer research. Stay on top of what's happening in your industry, and put processes and systems in place that allow you to pinpoint potential opportunities before they become mainstream. Monitor blog posts and social media trends, and attend industry events to stay one step ahead of the competition. And if you're doing well, don't get too cozy. Disruption is unpredictable and can catch you off guard—after all, it’s called disruption for a reason.

Discover how to disrupt your brand from the inside.

Whether your company is a Fortune 500 or a small business, there's always room for disruption. Every brand can benefit from innovating and disrupting its current processes.

Growing your brand requires a commitment to looking at how you can improve. For the most successful companies, this has meant embracing a culture of innovation—experimenting with new ideas, pushing boundaries, and fearlessly taking audacious risks. To foster real growth for your business, you must encourage disruption from within by analyzing your existing structure.

Start by looking at what already works and what's lagging. Innovation doesn't always mean going bigger or building something completely new—it can sometimes be as simple as tweaking an existing system.

Always innovate.

It's easy to get comfortable in your industry. After all, if something isn't broken, then why fix it, right? But, to stay ahead of sweeping currents of change, you can't wait for disruption to come to you—you have to innovate and evolve your product or service continuously. Innovation should be the foundation of your business strategy—not just a response to disruption.

Disruptive innovation requires a commitment to continuous improvement and experimentation. This means taking risks, testing new ideas, and exploring potential opportunities. With future thinking, you can ensure that your business always remains relevant.

Two women entrepreneurs collaborating in a hallway.

Practice mindful scaling.

It's easy to get swept up in the idea of drastic changes to your operations for the sake of innovation. But before you jump in—take a step back and review your current situation.

Mindful scaling means being strategic and deliberate about the changes you make to your business. Innovation should always be tailored to meet customer needs and coordinated with a clear action plan. Review different areas of your business, and identify ways to streamline processes and make them more efficient. Ask yourself questions like—

  • Are there any unnecessary steps in your current strategy?

  • Is there a way to automate certain tasks?

  • Can your messaging be more consistent?

  • Are there new product opportunities?

  • How are you best serving your customers?

Keep in mind business innovation isn't only about staying ahead of the competition for the long haul but also about sustaining any advantages you may have gained. Disruption success requires balance. It requires the foresight to look toward the future, but not so far ahead that it stops you from taking action today. This means you'll need a clear business strategy, a vision, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Embrace organic disruption.

The concept of business disruption resonates amongst entrepreneurs and business leaders alike. After all, who wouldn't want to transform the playing field? Most innovative minds aspire to leave their mark on the world—this goal is what makes disrupting markets so irresistible.

But, while focusing on disruptive innovation to approach a business goal sounds exciting and thrilling, it shouldn't be forced. Not every booming industry or successful product needs to be disrupted. Don't get caught up with the hype of business disruption and mistake it for progress. While disruption can be a vehicle for growth, it should be treated as an opportunity and not something your business needs to pursue at all costs.

Take time when introducing disruptive innovations into an existing market—carefully analyze potential opportunities and see if they fit your overall goals. Maybe you just need a few tweaks to stay competitive.

A man researching innnovation approaches at his desk.

What does it mean to embrace disruptive innovation?

There's no one path to business disruption—but more of a mindset. Innovation should be at the foundation of your business strategy, and it requires a willingness to relentlessly improve how things are being done. Rather than focusing on how to disrupt the market, focus on understanding your existing processes and how to make them better. Innovation starts with the willingness to try something new—and that journey can lead you to disruptive behavior.

Propel your brand to deliver disruption.

We love working with ambitious brands to disrupt their industries and achieve success. We provide insights into your organization by challenging the status quo and asking tough questions. Let's talk.