“Is your industry ripe for disruption?” This is a common headline in the innovation space. What usually follows is a list of industries and some bullet points about what makes them prime targets for competitive interference.
If you’re letting these analyses drive your innovation activities, you’re missing the point. Here’s why:
1. The Future is Created, not Predicted
What industry is not ripe for disruption? Companies often think they have a lock on market share based on data, trends, research, etc. No wonder they’re surprised when confronted with upstarts that overturn traditional ways of thinking about their market.
The disruptions that occur often defy expectations. And prediction. Expert entrepreneurs disrupt industries by following the principles of Effectuation as outlined by Dr. Saras Sarasvathy of UVa’s Darden School of Business.
The “unifying principle” of Effectuation is that of Pilot in the Plane. This asserts that innovations are not “found”. They are created through deliberate actions and responses on behalf of the innovator. They do not arise based on “vision”, but on action.
2. Unanticipated Happenings are Not to be Feared, but Embraced
The tone of these articles on disruption is usually fear based. “Companies need to do x”; or “beware of y”. It paints the picture of unanticipated acts as threatening. This is a very plan oriented, causal or “managerial” mindset. If it hasn’t been identified ahead of time, it must be mitigated against or eliminated. There is no room for the unexpected in corporate strategic planning.
Dr. Sarasvathy learned from her research on expert entrepreneurs that their mindset is the inverse. They not only leave room for the unexpected, they encourage it. And when they do encounter it, they don’t attempt to quash it. Instead they ask themselves “how can I use this to my advantage”. Consistent with the entrepreneurial mindset of viewing everything you have as a potential asset, even the unexpected that entrepreneurs encounter are put in that same category.
3. Innovating is Not Equal to Adapting
Industry focused articles often promote the herd mentality. Once they identify that the industry should innovate, they usually recommend a direction. Using these analyses to drive your innovation efforts can lead to a “follow the pack” bias that shortchanges the internal innovation process. Innovation built on this mindset is grounded in benchmarking and best practices. At best, it will induce the organization to make a slight change in future plans, or prepare better for the known future. What it won’t do is stimulate truly breakthrough “unknowable” innovations.
What to Do Instead
1. Don’t wait for someone to tell you your industry needs to innovate. Start now.
2. Empower your people to shift their mindset from predicting and adapting to Effectuating and creating.
3. Leave room in your innovation planning for the unplanned. And when it does occur, capitalize on it.
Next time you see a headline asking “Is your Industry Ripe for Disruption?” move on to the next article. The answer is always “Yes”.
--Written by Sara Whiffen, Founder & Managing Partner, Insights Ignited LLC