Embrace Disruption as a Viable Strategy

September 7, 2021

Every Business 101 class at an Ivy League business school has a lecturer emphasizing to their pupils that a company is "never too big to fail."

This has been the go-to generalization for some of the most astonishingly disastrous business failures of all time, including Kmart, Blockbuster, Circuit City, and others. But what exactly did these failures entail?

While some may believe it was the consequence of a deadly mix of bad management and avarice, the majority of people are unaware that it is more often than not the outcome of a company's failure to disrupt itself! A system that produced the bulk of the company's revenue was put in place at some time, and from that point forward, corporate executives linked their success to that system and the present, totally ignoring the future.

However, the truth is that the future is what counts the most, since it is the world in which we all live! The present is fleeting, and if you have an agile mentality, you will spend each minute putting out more and more flames as the world goes on.

This, along with the pressure to meet quarterly targets, diverts company executives' attention away from developing an Anticipatory mentality, which may position them to be the disruptor rather than the disrupted.

What might put you in danger?

My Anticipatory Leader System trains you to pay attention to the Hard Trends, or future certainties, that are influencing your business and to anticipate and address the issues they may bring you before they materialize.

Companies like Barnes & Noble and Blockbuster make the typical error of focusing on the now rather than the future. With an Anticipatory mentality, you teach your staff to constantly be looking toward the future, screening both within and beyond your business for disruptions long before they happen.

Thinking critically about this question: What might put us out of business? is a smart approach to better understand how to detect potential disruptions. There is no such thing as an absurd response; leave no stone unturned and think about everything.

Consider the taxicab business and ridesharing services such as Uber or Lyft. Do you suppose they thought to themselves when the digital app boom started, "What if an app comes out that allows patrons to use their own personal cars as taxicabs, putting us drastically behind the curve?"

Certainly not! That is why Uber and Lyft have risen to prominence.

In this case, an entrepreneur took advantage of the Hard Trend of convenience brought on by smartphone applications to address an issue, but in the process, they disrupted others who thought they were “too big to fail.” You now have a tremendous choice: become the disruptor or allow yourself to be disrupted by looking ahead and recognizing a disruptive Hard Trend.

Systems with deadly legacies

Another significant cause of big corporations collapsing is the need to preserve and defend the status quo that has allowed them to stay well ahead of the competition in past years. What I refer to as legacy systems or legacy technology is the current state of affairs.

A legacy system is a mentality or internal process that has been replaced by a newer, more efficient one. Legacy technology is out-of-date software that a company uses to fulfill an internal or external job and that it clings to out of habit.

Because change is the sole constant in our world, both of these may be harmful, and such systems and technology will ultimately bring harm to the business.

Kmart is an example of a legacy system's antiquated nature driving even the largest business to its knees. Kmart, once a massive retailer, today has just 34 shops remaining.

Business experts refer to the growth of internet shopping as the main reason; nevertheless, a legacy system was one of the major problems that took Kmart down. Kmart leadership declined to invest in supply chain management technologies in the same way that rivals Target and Walmart did.

Rather than protecting and defending, embracing and extending is a preferable approach to avoid this. While the world grew progressively more digital, Kodak spent millions of dollars preserving and defending a solely film-based photographic company.

Now that everyone has a digital camera in their wallets or purses, Kodak could still be going strong if they had embraced digital photography and expanded their company in reaction to that Hard Trend.

Disruption makes no distinctions

This is your wake-up call; don't think your company is impervious to interruptions of any sort. Take a look at your company: Are you checking your blind spots from the outside as well?

What basic assumptions do you have about the "way things will always be"? So you don't get left in the dust, what are you doing to become your own disruptor?

Looking to the future and figuring out how someone could exploit these interruptions to their advantage opens a method for you to accomplish it before they do!

Similarly, clinging to old technology or legacy systems while frantically attempting to preserve and defend the status quo can only lead to a decline or total death of your company, therefore it's critical that you start using my Anticipatory Leader System now to transition to an Anticipatory mentality.

Thanks to Daniel Burrus at Business 2 Community whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.

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