Throughout this series we’ve spent time digging into some of the top disruptive technologies on the market today. We’ve looked at Internet of Things, Bitcoin, and 3-D printing as prime examples of major, if not revolutionary, shifts in how businesses and society will operate in the years ahead.
In this final segment we want to take a step back and address what these disruptions mean for the small business player. It’s certainly important to be aware of the latest technological disruptions coming down the pike. But we also want to know what disruption means on the ground today and in the daily round of business. How does it really impact your business strategy today? Will your leadership team allocate spending and research on disruptive innovation? There are several action items small business leaders can do right now to move forward with disruptive technologies awareness and planning.
A good starting point is to get aligned with the latest research on those disruptive and emerging markets directly impacting your verticals. I would suggest looking into the services of Gartner. This enterprise research company has identified what they call the “Nexus of Forces,” or the integration of Social, Information, Cloud, and Mobile. According to Gartner, “The nexus of forces describes the convergence and mutual reinforcement of four interdependent trends: social interaction, mobility, cloud, and information. The forces combine to empower individuals as they interact with each other and their information through well-designed ubiquitous technology.” Gartner offers a wide range of services that can provide business of any size the tools, insights, consulting, and planning they need to move forward with development and strategizing.
Another action item is to align your external research with an internal resource who can map the latest disruptions in your vertical against organizational business goals. Assign someone the role of emerging technology researcher and strategist, who will dig deeply and study the trends and provide frequent updates to your leadership team. Have this person develop quarterly updates as well as 6-12 month outlooks around the most pressing areas in your industry. Giving this person autonomy to attend conferences and other networking events will also help to assure that your business has the right optics into what is required to stay relevant and focused.
A final point here is most important. All the research awareness is futile without buy-in from your leadership team. Business decision-makers need to be willing to stretch the boundaries beyond the status quo and to get creative and think innovatively. One writer refers to this aptitude as part of a leapfrogging mindset. What this means on the ground is this: “Leading disruptive innovation requires a mindset focused on leapfrogging, creating or doing something radically new or different that produces a significant leap forward.” At some deeper level, this mentality means that you have the ability to take risks, to put yourself out there and be willing to fail. It also means being uncomfortable with uncertainty. There is rarely going to be hard and fast data on the latest disruptive trends, so you will need to manage that uncertainty appropriately.
Businesses are tasked with trying to be proactive, innovative, and to make money. Decision makers and leader have KPI quotas to meet, customers to please, and also must stay ahead of the competition. But all of these “practical” daily business drivers can’t preclude the need for paying attention to disruptive innovations on the ground. This is vitally important! In fact, 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 era. Many other examples exist. Think of Blackberry, Borders, and Blockbuster in recent years.
Just remember the point mentioned in the opening segment: businesses and the DoDo bird will share the same plight – extinction – if they don’t pay attention to and adjust to these disruptions impacting their industry at the speed of the market.
The first step is always the hardest, but it requires a strong degree of organizational self-awareness. You need to move beyond the hype around disruptive innovations and begin to recognize the right opportunities for your line of business. There will be uncertainly, there will be discomfort, but taking that leap of faith is critical for your business survival. If you don’t, your competition will. So start today and get on the fast track to developing your disruptive technology strategy plan.