What disruption really means and how to handle it

Azadeh Williams

The age of digital disruption is not as scary as it sounds, and more agile and innovative businesses are now embracing the concept with open arms. But what does it mean to be a disruptor in today’s fast-evolving landscape and why is it time to embrace change?

What it means for today’s business owner

Disruption has become a real buzzword within today's startup landscape, with the likes of Uber and AirBnB transforming the way businesses function and engage with customers. Meanwhile those that have failed to adapt to changes in technology and customer expectations fast enough, such as Lonely Planet, have fallen behind to the likes of more customer-centric disruptors such as TripAdvisor.

But the concept itself is far from new. The phrase ‘disruptive innovation’ was initially coined around 20 years ago by Harvard Business School professor, Clayton Christensen, where he alluded to the way emerging tech could redefine the way we do business. Moving into 2016, ‘disruption’ has become almost a hackneyed term that is often misconstrued and misconceived by even the most well-meaning entrepreneurs.

In fact, with the rapid evolution of technology, what we’re looking at now is not just mere ‘disruption,’ but a real cataclysmic upheaval of change that is revolutionising the way businesses engage with consumers, understand their customer and create a more seamless experience.

Take the recent launch of eBay’s virtual reality goggle for instance, in partnership with Myer. The two recently partnered to launch the world’s first virtual reality store, where shoppers can simply download an app on their phone, attach it to a pair of ‘shopticles’ and shop in 3D. Now this is more than just ‘disruption’, but a phenomenal shift in the way consumers will be able to engage with brands and businesses.

As a business owner, it’s dangerous to under-estimate the true magnitude and impact these digital disruptors have.

Can you disrupt yourself?

As a business owner, it’s dangerous to under-estimate the true magnitude and impact these digital disruptors have on the way you do business. A recent study by independent technology and market research company, Forrester, revealed a third of businesses don’t feel they are able to disrupt themselves in the face of digital change.

Alarmingly, in the Forrester’s Assess Your Digital Disruption Readiness Now report, only half of businesses surveyed believed they had the business practices and policies in place to adapt to digital disruption.

So how should you prepare yourself for the changes ahead? How can you stay focused on your business objectives, without getting too caught up in the hype?

The time is now to ensure your business is ready for digitisation.

Stay focused, innovate and collaborate

First of all, it’s important to understand the fact that digital disruption is here to stay, and the changes continue to create new, exciting and positive opportunities for all industries willing to adapt and be responsive. Fear not the age of disruption, but be willing to adopt new digital offerings that can boost your business efficiency, improve your customer journey, offer better lines of communication in real time and even open up new market segments.

At the same time, with the rise of the Internet of Things and emerging technologies such as wearables, it’s critical not to become too dazzled or distracted by the next shiny new toy. Take time to carefully consider any new technology and how it will impact your business, and whether you will get the right ROI on your digital spend. Remember your customer comes first, so whatever change you wish to adopt, ensure it provides real value to your customers and your brand ethos.

Collaboration is key in the age of digital disruption, and business leaders need to encourage ongoing communication with heads of marketing and IT to ensure internal teams are working cohesively to promote a culture of embracing innovation and change. Externally, it is essential to partner with the right technological and consulting providers to enjoy a more seamless and efficient digital transformation journey.

This means the time is now to ensure your business is ready for digitisation from the ground up. Whether it is your supply chain, distribution methods, fulfillment, customer service strategy or CRM solutions, if the rate of change outside the organisation is happening faster than within, you’re going to need to act fast.

Azadeh Williams

Azadeh Williams is a former business and finance news editor at Thomson Reuters, Azadeh Williams has written over 3,000 articles in her 15-year international career on business, technology, marketing and innovation for the likes of The Times, CMO Magazine and Fast Business. She has also lectured in business journalism and media law at Macleay College.

Image: William Murphy, Flickr Creative Commons License