Online education portals like Udacity and Coursera are really changing the world of remote learning in significant ways. By making free and high quality education accessible to a global audience, these platforms are opening up undreamt of possibilities for communities around the world to improve, grow, and prosper in the digital economy of the 21st century. Education at top tier colleges and universities has traditionally been a social and economic privilege, but now anyone can join in the learning revolution by sitting in virtual classrooms with the world’s best and brightest educators. Whether this involves learning how to code and build smart phone apps, or starting up a new business, or learning about public health literacy, the sky is the limit of what’s now possible.

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How to keep your small business from being disrupted

As one writer has well stated, “The most salient aspect of technology is its power to disrupt. The important innovations are the ones that change our world so profoundly that the previous order becomes not only untenable, but unthinkable.” Perhaps one of the most apparent examples of this is the iPhone. It’s appearance in 2007 heralded a profound shift in the way people communicated, the way they connected to the rest of the world. The ability to connect to the internet via a handheld device and to games, apps, and music was not completely new, but Apple packaged all of these features together in a way that had never been done before.




Or take the concept of the cloud. A few years ago people were asking why they would want to put their content on someone else’s server. After all, won’t it get stolen or compromised? Now, in the era of cloud file sharing solutions like Dropbox and Google Docs, the reverse is unthinkable. Many other examples could be given, but the point is that technology is inherently disruptive.

As innovation continues to change at lightning speed and to disrupt and replace old and outdated technology (meaning, now usually less than 2 years!), small businesses need strategies in place to keep up with the latest trends. There was a time when a business could get by for a while without a social media or mobile strategy, but those days are long gone. Now these technologies are essential for a business to stay afloat. Apply this same point to disruptive technologies and you begin to see the point (by the way, a disruptive technology, or disruptive innovation, is one “that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network”). Businesses must either innovate or get left behind.

The bottom line is that without a clear disruptive business strategy in place organizations could face the same plight as the DoDo bird – extinction! It’s imperative for small businesses to be cognizant of the disruptive forces that are impacting their particular industry, and to plan accordingly.

Also keep in mind that smaller players can learn BIG lessons from those firms that failed to keep up with unexpected market changes. Think of Kodak, which owned the camera market for years, but couldn’t make the adjustment to the digital. Many other examples exist. Think of Blackberry, Borders, and Blockbuster in recent years.

The essential way to avoid disruption is to get onboard with the latest trends in innovation. Decision-makers and key strategists should make periodic assessments of their innovation best practices, recognize the latest disruptive trends in their industries, and do whatever it takes to stay ahead of their competition.




There are a number of ways to help steer your small business in the right direction towards an innovation mind-set that encourages creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Here are 10 best practices to begin adopting today!

Don’t expect to reinvent the wheel: Innovation doesn’t imply creating something new and novel. Look first at how to take an existing process and make it better!

Challenge convention: Innovation and convention don’t mix; promote a culture that makes it safe to ask new questions and question old traditions.

Keep the end result in mind: Don’t assume a fixed result endpoint but be prepared to pivot and shift your innovation strategy as market dynamics determine.

Don’t languish in the planning stage: A great start can flame out if the team allows planning and logistics to overwhelm the effort. Stay the course, preserve the vision, and finish strong!

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: The process of innovation will require attributes and attitudes that stretch your comfort zone, but the rewards and outcomes will be well worth it.

Think outside the box: Box? What Box? Too many company structures will impede innovation faster than anything.

Create a small, agile team: A team size of 6 to 10 people makes life easier for everyone as it improves communications, builds trust, and improves overall efficiency.

Leave decision-making in the hands of no more than two people: Consolidating the authority will keep the innovation process streamlined and less inclined towards company politics.

Research emerging & disruptive markets: Hire or assign someone the role of emerging technology researcher and strategist to study the latest trends and 6-12 month outlooks around the most pressing areas in your vertical.

Put together a 2020 roadmap: Many believe the year 2020 will mark a profound shift in the global business landscape, influenced by rapid changes in demographic, technological, and geopolitical forces. Plan to adopt 2020 as a benchmark to guide and direct new strategies and development goals in the areas of revenue, performance, and customer retention. Ask yourself: “What do I want my business to look like in 6 years?




Getting your small business onboard with innovation is the critical first step (as one writer puts it) “to stay ahead of the tsunami of disruption that may be coming straight at you.” Change is never easy and while there is bound to be uncertainly and discomfort at first, the key is to start “doing innovation” today. And then keep right on doing it . . . until innovation becomes the essential ingredient of your business strategy and vision.


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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called, along with oversight and leadership of - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.