“When people come together with a common purpose anything is possible. Entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly empowered and the businesses they’re building have already torn down and transformed entire industries and you under estimate them at your peril.”
Last week a crowd of individuals came together to lift a double decker bus off a trapped cyclist. It’s a stark reminder about how when enough people come together with a common purpose they can achieve anything, it seems an especially apt analogy.
In today’s modern world the double decker bus is your seemingly unassailable industry and the crowd represent the entrepreneurs who are trying to move or upend it.
The Ants have power and purpose
Every time I visit a client with a head office in a skyscraper I look out of the window at the ant sized individuals forty or so stories below. When I talk to clients about disruption and how the future is already fundamentally changing the paradigms of business I talk to them about the ant,s but I get them to imagine the people are all Entrepreneurs with a common purpose to create the next big business or industry.
It might sound simplistic but it’s an effective visual analogy of the new world we live in. There are hundreds of thousands of well funded Entrepreneurs in accelerator programs in London, Silicon Valley, Boston, New York and further afield. They are just around the corner from many of the organisations they’re busy trying to disrupt and they’re all united by a common purpose; Swarming around the foundation of your industry trying to find chinks in your industry’s armour.
Today, technology and digital have lowered the bar to entry and the number of people around the world starting companies has risen ten fold to 100 million whilst the number of patent applications has risen by a factor of six. Entrepreneurs have faster and easier access to funding, expert resources, advanced manufacturing and prototyping techniques and rapid routes to market. When you connect billions of people together, the next great idea and the means to resource, develop and sell it are merely a click away. Disruption is now closer to your door than it’s ever been before.
The Caravan on your lawn
Typically there are two groups that will be looking to disrupt your business – competitive corporations, either from within or outside of your current industry, and Entrepreneurs.
While it’s fair to say that technology has dramatically reduced the barrier to entry, for many want-to-be disruptors it’s easy to argue that you’re more likely to spot the giant corporations like Google who are trying to park their caravan on your lawn than the smaller Entrepreneurs. More often than not that’s because the smaller Entrepreneurs are the ones more likely to fly under the radar until they’re a force to be reckoned with.
Google’s new product initiatives have helped it increase earnings by $6 billion over the past 5 years, but during the same period small start ups have created new markets worth over $1.5 Trillion. 174 of those start ups or 1.63% of all Silicon Valley start ups have gone from zero to multi billion dollar valuations almost over night, so logically we could almost argue that it’s the smaller companies you need to be more wary of.
In many cases industries have paid too little attention to the Entrepreneurs circling their tower and have spotted them too late when they’ve already inflicted the damage and when they’ve managed to pivot a market. Think Airbnb, Box, GoPro, Nest and one hundred and seventy others. Now they’re not just parked on your lawn they’re upending your industry.
Start your turn early
Corporations have a relatively simple outlook on life – it’s business as usual until their top and bottom lines are in decline and their share price is under pressure. When revenues are flattening and profit margins are declining you’ll be surprised at how many organisations simply try to shrug it off and kick start the engines again by announcing structural changes. When these fail to reverse the organisation's fortunes they start taking more radical steps to stem the losses that include redundancies and asset sales. However, by that time the damage to their business is already done, they just have to hope it doesn’t become systemic and catastrophic.
The secret of course is that you need to always be on guard, spot disruption early and begin turning your business as soon as you can as today speed is the currency of business. It can take years to turn a large organisation, which makes it even more vital that your organisation is able to recognise the signs and patterns of disruption as early as possible and with the right guidance and insights, it’s simpler that you think but don’t be under any illusion.
Transforming a large business takes time, leadership and a firm hand, but managed correctly you can make the turn and still be in the lead. Disrupt yourself before someone else does and lead the new market rather than being relegated to being a footnote.
Disruption originates in your blind spot but despite the evidence around us, many organisations are still ill equipped to see it, defend against it or harness it. When your foundations and exits are surrounded and under attack the ivory tower that was once your fortress can quickly feel like it’s turned into a prison. You need to change your perspective, get back to ground level, network and listen and figure out how if the shoe was on the other foot, you’d transform your industry and ruin your competitors, then perhaps one day it might be you who rule the world (again).
About the Author: Recognized in 2013 and 2014 by the public as one of Europe’s leading Emerging Technology and Disruption Strategy advisers Matthew Griffin is an international speaker and writer who works with global Accelerators, Analysts, Entrepreneurs, Investors, Governments and multi national organizations to help them see, lead and adapt to new business, cultural and societal trends.