5 ways to counteract disruption

Organisations are finding ways to stay ahead of the innovation curve 

September 25, 2019

Disruption driven by the blazing pace of technological advances has been upending business models for decades By now, because everyone knows it’s coming sooner rather than later, it’s become difficult to pity the unprepared, according to speakers at the ‘Signature – Disruption by Design’ event earlier this month in Canberra.

“If you’re moving slower and slower in a world that’s moving faster and faster, then there are going to be problems,” says Peter Williams, Chief Edge Officer, Centre for the Edge, Deloitte Australia. “But it’s not disruption if you’re moving at the right tempo.”

Here are five tips from the experts on how to stay disruptive to avoid disruption in the digital age:

1. Recognise the patterns of disruption

Knowing what disruption looks like allows companies not only to recognise and act when they see it coming, but also to be the innovators, says Deloitte’s Williams.

For instance, keep an eye on “adjacent assets.” In the vein of Uber and Airbnb, this means leveraging assets that were not previously considered part of a market, like regular cars for taxis, and houses for hotels.

Other examples include Ikea, which shortened its value chain with flatpack furniture, removing the need for furniture removalists. Whatsapp’s pared-back messaging service gave customers a stand-alone product and nothing more.

Tripadvisor and Wikipedia earned their followers by mobilising a large number of third parties to create superior valuable in a product.

2. Don’t use technology as a blunt-force tool

Technology is a necessary means to innovate, but it should not be used exclusively, says Williams.

“Don’t accidentally create exclusion with your new technology when it is meant to provide inclusion,” he says. “There will be people who can’t get the internet on their phones, or have mental or physical barriers. Don’t cut them off. Take a multi-channel approach, but grow the number of people getting on board with your digital program so they can help those who can’t.”

3. Focus on agile people

Disruptive businesses move fast and change direction, but they can only be as nimble as the people who do the work.

Leaders can get their workforce on board by deploying practical skills that focus on the psychology of change, says Charlotte Rush, Head of Learning at innovation consultancy Inventium.

These include doing more of the things that work; dedicating efforts to just a core set of changes and making goals concrete; celebrating small wins; and making change feel natural for people by changing the environment around them.

“This is not about one big new complex methodology for change management. This is about recognising that having an influence on peoples’ behaviour has a huge impact on success,” Rush says.

4. Put experience at the heart of your service

The number of innovations entering the workplace is an example of how easily companies can be disrupted if they fail to “engage, empower and fulfil” their workforce and customers, or put people first, says Bryan Froud, Workplace Consulting Director, JLL.

Disruptive technology is increasingly being used by organisations throughout the entire employee life cycle, from canvasing and on-boarding potential recruits, all the way throughout their ongoing development.

At one tech organisation an algorithm scrubs browsing patterns and computer usage, to predict the likelihood of their leaving a job up to the 95 percent accuracy percentile.

“It’s getting to the stage where our employers will know when we plan on leaving out organisation, perhaps even before we know ourselves,” says Froud.

5. Have empathy

Empathy is central tenet of a process known as design thinking that encourages innovators to get to the heart of the needs of the people they are designing a product or a space for.

Having a product that empathises with users and the human experience, will make companies less likely to be disrupted, says Froud.

“A survey will just feed people questions that are based on your assumptions, and provide limited scope for follow-up questions,” he says. “By engaging in a more meaningful way, it creates an opportunity to unlock unique insights that even participants may have not realised themselves.” 

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