The one thing that’s a constant is change. I recently wrote about The NEXT BIG THING and how big things keep coming faster and faster. We are now in a society of innovation which is washing over us and there’s not an industry you can imagine which isn’t being touched. The result is disruption. Your company is being disrupted or disruptive and you yourself are doing one or the other as well. Let’s look at some examples.


The first industry which may come to mind is music. Napster hit right as Internet speeds and maturity really started to move and MP3s began to become a recognizable term. Hard drives could store music and Winamp could catalog and play them easily enough. The music industry tried to put the genie back in the bottle and eventually got Napster shut down. Then Apple created the iPod and iTunes which brought digital music truly mainstream. You know the rest. Record stores went the way of the dodo bird and Apple dominates the revenue from digital music (as I sit here typing to Spotify).

You can see a similar trend in the visual entertainment industry. I’m not calling it the TV or movie industry because those terms are becoming irrelevant. TiVo started the time shifting disruption so that people could much more easily watch what they wanted when they wanted and without those annoying commercials. How many of the TV shows you watch these days are appointment viewing which you see when they’re broadcast? How many are actually broadcast? Have you ever binge-watched a show which gets a lot of attention these days from the start – on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu…? What’s this say about where the medium  is heading?

Also telling are YouTube TrueView ads – the ones you can skip after a few seconds. Have you noticed yourself actually opting to watch some of them? The ones which are creative and entertaining which don’t shove product in your face like a used car ad (the old ones, not good CarMax ones) are often worth it. You search for something, get the results you want, then choose to sit through an ad and it’s all powered by Google. The Google who has the most personalized and intent-driven data on the planet and charges advertisers to target viewers. There’s a much better chance you’ll actually watch a quality ad which is targeted at you based on what you’re doing or looking for and you’re given an opt-out. Three times as much, actually. Think that disrupts the advertising industry?

Listen to this speech by Kevin Spacey and extend it to… Everything.

“Give people what they want when they want it in the form they want it in at a reasonable price and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it.”
The list goes on. People who review movies for local papers now don’t exist or fuel a number on Rottentomatoes. Restaurants now link to their Yelp! page from their website because they know people will look before dining anyway. Even taxi companies and hotels are disrupted by Uber, Airbnb, and the concept of collaborative consumption. Taxi companies?!?!? Who’s safe anymore?
Disruption is more and more common.
Disruption is more and more common.
The disrupters are safe, that’s who. The message here is that if you’re at a company which isn’t trying to either adapt proactively or disrupt others, you’re in for trouble. Your business model is going to be threatened or out of date soon unless you run a regulated power plant. Even more so, you need to be aware of trends and be prepared to push the envelope. Are you innovating? Are you looking to where your business is going to be and connecting to customers to see where they’re looking? This disruption doesn’t just mean changes for the company you work for, it means your job skills will need to be continually refined and reinvented.

Here’s the choice as we enter a new year. You’re going to be defined on how you react to change. If you choose to entrench yourself in where you are, you’re starting your own obsolescence. If your company or business rewards doing things the way they’ve always worked then it’s doomed. If you’re aligned behind a group that does this or stands in the way of change then the same goes. Likewise, there’s no win for the person who defines victory by pushing other ideas out of the way in order to stake a claim. You may get ahead in the next few weeks, months, or year. But you’ll lose in the end. We’re all dependent on the ecosystem around us to push innovation forward and be agile. With disruption becoming the norm, there’s no quieting the voice of progress any more than the music industry could put the MP3 genie back in the bottle.

This article on discomfort spells things out very well. A key thought in it is working to get out of your comfort zone so that discomfort is the norm. Disruption is the norm. Old paradigms don’t work and new ones need to evolve or they become stale. In order to be successful in being disruptive, you need to continue learning and making connections outside of the norm. Disruption and discomfort don’t mean you’re destructive though. Your ability to cause disruption in a positive way creates value and a sense of urgency. Sure there are going to be people threatened today, but those same people will soon be looking to you because the old way is either obsolete or needs new approaches to be relevant in the new world. Persistence and belligerent positivity are what it takes to get where you want to be.


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