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The Role of Disruption in Digital Transformation

Jackie Brusch
Publication Date
5 December 2019

The Role of Disruption in Digital Transformation

“Today's fastest growing companies didn't get where they are by using the same business models as their competitors or incrementally innovating using the same tried and true practices. Instead, they changed the game with technology. They jumped on trends, pioneered new digital models, and offered products and services that differentiate with insight. And they did so ahead of their competition.” 

This quote from Forrester calls out the importance of disruption in digital transformation. Because without disruption, innovation doesn’t exist. 

So… What Does it Mean to be a Digital Disruptor? 

...And Who Embodies Disruption Today?

In the context of digital transformation, disruption is a change in “business as usual,” leading to a better place than we were before. It’s implementing something new for the betterment of customers, employees, and stakeholders. It’s making a commitment to be different, to disrupt the industry with something great. 

A digital disruptor is someone you want to be. Here are just a few of the best known disruptors today:

  • Elon Musk: Creator and founder of Tesla
  • Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia: Co-founders of Airbnb
  • Mark Zuckerberg: Creator of Facebook
  • Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp: Creators of Uber 
  • Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings: Founders of Netflix

All of these people have challenged the status quo, even in the face of adversity, to bring forth some of the world’s most well-known solutions – the majority of which, if not all, are used every single day by millions of people around the world. 

Many of these innovative leaders started out with simple ideas and built on them to create the solutions that have changed our everyday lives. So… how did they do it?

How to Become a Digital Disruptor

To be truly innovative and disruptive, your business should look past the technologies that will keep them relevant. Instead, focus on the bigger picture. 

Forrester outlined ways you can incorporate innovative thinking in your business to create disruption in your industry and better solutions for your customers:

  • Reimagining your offerings. Start thinking like an outsider. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and ask yourself – how could our services and offerings be better? How can we move the needle to create the next wave of solutions? 

  • Reinventing consumer experiences. To maintain your organization, you need consumers. More importantly, you need happy consumers. How can you reinvent their experiences to elevate your company?

  • Uncover new business models. Just because the current business model works, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better, more efficient way to do it. Think about how others have made improvements in their business models. We can assume that it required the courage to think outside the box. Great business leaders allow themselves to do the same. How can you create a space for inventive ideas? Nurturing all ideas, good and bad, will lead you to the next best innovation.

  • Identify difficult problems – and solve them. There are some problems that seem to take years to resolve, but the organizations that solve them end up changing the world. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are prime examples of problem solvers who took big communication problems and turned them into opportunities, and today we have so much technology to help us with everyday tasks – it’s almost impossible to remember what life was like beforehand. How can you solve your industry’s greatest problems? 

Successful Digital Disruption Examples

Maybe you’ve come this far and you’re thinking, “It’s too hard, I’m not Steve Jobs.” 

Never fear, you don’t have to be the next Steve Jobs to make an impact for your customers. Opportunities abound to utilize growing technology trends to improve lives in meaningful ways. 

For example:

    • Healthcare and Life Sciences: IoT, wearables, and moving to the cloud are all ways that healthcare is enabling better patient engagement, greater staff efficiency, and enhanced data management for overall improved health outcomes.
    • Financial Services: Financial institutions have come together with technology organizations – to the point that “fintech” is now a word – to create experiences that enable consumers and businesses greater accessibility and flexibility with how they manage their finances.
    • Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods: The retail industry has transformed due to customer demand. Need help cooking your turkey? Ask Alexa for help! As an industry so heavily reliant on consumers, it’d be a surprise if they weren’t constantly innovating.
    • Quick Service Restaurants: Quick service has become a lot quicker with the ability to order ahead on a mobile app or in-store kiosk. 

To further prove the point, Forrester found that firms with advanced technology-driven innovation practices are growing 3.6 times their industry average, while beginners are shrinking – and none of this is true or possible without disruption.

Keeping Your Customer at the Heart of it All

Now that you know what digital disruption is, why it’s important, and how you can get started, it’s important to not lose sight of the most important factor: your customer. 

Working with a partner that has deep-rooted experience can help your team deliver the right disruption, faster and more seamlessly than going it alone. This ensures that the right actions are in place to make your innovation successful and add value to your users. 

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