Disruption Without Destruction

By West McDonald, Vice President of Business Development, Print Audit

There comes a time when every industry reaches some kind of inflection point and dramatic change is required to enable survival, let alone growth.  Whether it’s a disruptive technology or a disruptive new business model, “change or die” is a mantra we all must look squarely in the eyes at some point in our professional lives.  With the exponential changes occurring in 2015, thanks to technological innovation, we may be looking at an age where constant disruption is the new reality.  The question is, how do we not only survive disruptive influences but also embrace them and use their power to our advantage?

Here are my Top 5 recommendations for “Disruption without Destruction” along with further reading to keep by your bedside table:

1. BE the disruption:  According to “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” it is better to be first than it is to be better.  Don’t wait for somebody else to come along and be first because odds are they will have a far easier time gaining market and mindshare.  I am a Pepsi drinker by choice, I truly believe it tastes better than Coca Cola.  But guess who owns the cola crown?  It ain’t Pepsi. And guess who was first?

2. Improve your ability to change quickly:  One of the worst expressions for a modern business is “That’s not how we do things here”.  This is all about improving corporate agility and responding faster to changing market conditions.  John P. Kotter puts it best in his book, “XLR8” where he effectively lays out five core principles of the new network system and the 8 accelerators that drive it.  Check it out, a very good read.

3. Ask your customers uncomfortable questions:  Odds are your customers are embarking on a whole bunch of changes internally that you are completely oblivious to.  Things that could have a huge and potentially negative impact on the business you do with them right now.  Why not ask your customers about what is coming around the corner and what you do that might hinder them.  It just might save your business.  Check out this blog by Jeannie Walters entitled “12 Most Effective Questions for Customers”. It has some great (if uncomfortable) questions you can ask your customers to ensure better alignment.

4. Ask yourself some uncomfortable questions:  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spoken to people in my own industry that have vehemently denied the writing on the wall because their businesses will be required to make dramatic changes in order to keep up.  In my world it has to do with office print volumes and their assured decline. “The 7 Deadly Sins of Office Equipment Dealers” was written by some of the brightest minds in our space but applies to any business looking to do some internal reflection.

5. Don’t throw the baby away:  Embracing disruption can lead to chasing a lot of “shiny new objects”.  The trick to business diversification, if required at all, is to find adjacent offerings that will bolster your core expertise.   Keep the baby that got you where you are today but let it grow up and accept that it will be different than what you had planned on.  That’s okay!    Here is a great interview with Chris Mee at ImageOne that highlights what they have done to remain focused in an age of shiny new objects.

Hopefully these tips will help you to better your business’ ability to not only to deal with disruption but to embrace and profit from it.  Do you have some tips of your own?  I would love to hear them so please leave a few disruptive ideas in the comments section below!

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