Late last year, we published an article on disruptive technology, a kind of technology that starts out as unstable and novel for which there’s little demand, but eventually becomes mainstream. We discussed why disruptive technology is something to look out for, or better yet, to come up with. In many ways, disruptive technology is a game-changer that can turn an industry on its head. If you aren’t ready to join the ride in the first place, you won’t be able to keep up later on.
In this article, we’ll talk about disruptive thinking, the mother of disruptive technology. You can’t expect to come up with an innovative invention if you don’t entertain innovative thinking. Thoughts become things, after all. And in today’s competitive world of business, you should never be complacent with your ideas even when things are going smoothly for your company at the moment. You never know when the competition will catch up with — or worse, overtake — you. With the way technology is rapidly changing processes, what’s mainstream now may be obsolete tomorrow.
Let’s take a look at Kodak yet again for an example. The company was the leading manufacturer of photographic film products, but in the late 1990s, it began to struggle when sales declined because of digital photography. It was already too late by the time the company decided to catch up.
As the leading brand for film cameras and as the pioneer of the core technology behind digital cameras, Kodak should have led the transition. But unfortunately, the company became too comfortable with its success with film that the people running it didn’t see the need to be innovative. Somewhere along the line, they focused solely on the idea that film would be around forever, and not on the possibility that it would be virtually phased out as a medium in the future.
Digital photography is an example of disruptive technology. It removed an existing need for film cameras and replaced it with a new need for digital cameras. And that’s exactly why Kodak failed. Demand for film cameras decreased significantly before it was taken over by demand for digital cameras. Think about it: Who now still uses film cameras aside from some dedicated hobbyists and pro photographers? The average Joe and Jane have been using standalone digital cameras since the mid-2000s, and are now most likely using the built-in cameras in their smartphones or tablets.
If you don’t want your company to go the way of Kodak, you must be open to risks. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to take the plunge all the time without hesitation. Like with anything else, moderation is the key here. Still, you have to possess the mindset of an innovator. It’s not enough for you to be adaptive to changes; to stay ahead in the game, you need to be savvy enough to create the changes. If you come across a good idea, assess the risks and explore the possibilities. With a higher risk tolerance, you can take your company into the future.
However, disruptive thinking isn’t easy. It’s like trying to fix something that isn’t broken. But will it always remain unbroken? What happens if it does get broken? Wait, what happens if you yourself break it? Disruptive thinking takes different possibilities in consideration. It goes beyond your comfort zone into an unfamiliar territory. It dares to question the status quo. It seeks the answer to “What if …?” When asked why, it boldly says, “Why not?”
This year, practice disruptive thinking. And don’t just do it by yourself — bring your board of directors with you. Encourage your directors to share their thoughts in regular collaboration sessions powered by Convene, a board portal for paperless board meetings. All they need is an iPad or Android device plus Internet connection, and they’re ready for a virtual exchange of great ideas!