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How to Be the Disruptor and Not the Disrupted

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You’ve heard of FOMO, right? Fear Of Missing Out. It’s why we’re addicted to Facebook and Instagram and all the rest. It’s why we tell our devices to notify us the instant anything happens anywhere in the world. Because heaven forbid we’re not in the know!

Industry leaders have a similar fear, which I call FOD: Fear Of Disruption. They don’t want to be the Blockbuster to someone else’s Netflix. They don’t want to be the Sears to someone else’s Amazon.

Actually, that brings up a good point. Leaders don’t actually have a Fear Of Disruption. They have a Fear Of Being Disrupted. They’re perfectly fine with disruption when they are the disruptor. They just don’t want to be the disrupted.

Industry leaders have a similar fear. They don't want to be the Sears to someone else's Amazon. #disruption #breakthroughthinking #innovators. Click To Tweet

They don’t want to be Sears — but they’d happily be Amazon.

Which raises the obvious question: How can you be the disruptor and not the disrupted?

You start by asking yourself two questions:

  1. Who are my future customers?
  2. What will my industry look like in ten years?

Let’s look at each of these.

Who are my future customers?

First, let’s understand one key concept: Disruption is all about growth. The desire to grow your business, your company, your industry is what fuels disruption. And that brings us to another key concept:

Your future growth is not likely to come from your current customers.

Disruption is all about #growth. The desire to #grow your business, your company, your industry is what fuels #disruption. #innovate Click To Tweet

To be a disruptor, you have to look beyond your current customer base. Who are your future customers? Are they:

  • Your competitors’ current customers?
  • A younger generation of buyer?
  • People who don’t currently know that they “need” your products/services?
To be a disruptor, you have to look beyond your current customer base. Who are your future customers? #disruption #innovation Click To Tweet

Once you decide who your future customers are, you can look at how you can serve them better than anyone else. In what ways are they currently being underserved? What is it about your industry that they currently hate? How can you make it easier for them to use what it is that you offer?

What will my industry look like in ten years?

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky famously said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”

Disruptors do the same thing. They skate to where the industry is going to be, not to where it has been.

If you want to be the disruptor and not the disrupted, you have to look at the trends, connect the dots, and throw in a bit of imagination. You have to envision where you industry is going, not where it’s been or where it is now.

Is this sure-fire? Nope. Not by a long shot. Because when it comes to disruption, someone else may get there first and completely change the game. But if you spend time each day thinking about where your industry puck is going to be — if you spend time each day asking, “What will my industry look like in ten years?” — you stand a much better chance of being that disruptor.

And the others — the disrupted — will be shaking their heads, wondering what just happened.

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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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