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March 12, 2012

In a world where self-disruption equals self-preservation!

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:23 AM


While most of us continue to "unsee" competition, some smart companies are fighting the "bad guys" even before they show themselves. It's dousing fire with fire for them, as they employ self-disruption to thwart competition and not just survive but thrive. Look at the AutoCAD app-store from Autodesk - the world leaders in 3D design and engineering software. Making its application downloadable for smartphones and tablets, on a third-party store, meant revenue sharing. But by offering the "most convenient...most accessible" solution, even in such a niche market, they've effectively neutered the other wannabes.

All open source success stories showcase the same logic. Disrupt to preserve. It's always about an idea that the owner can potentially preserve and sell, but chooses to disrupt by giving it away to external nurturers, providing a continuously evolving quality alternative to commercial, closed source options. The method of ensuring sustenance in the market is Darwinian: Survival of the fittest. Through natural selection by the consumer.

It's uncanny how ideas that disrupt can bubble up from the bottom, instead of flowing down from the top. That's why crowd-sourcing works. Other times, the problem can hold, within it, the seeds of the solution. Consider the runpee app. Born from the challenge: Theatres don't have pause buttons. Disruption came in the form of this free mobile app that provides approximate "best" times for taking breaks while watching films in theaters. New markets, new trends, new technologies...they can all threaten, but also enable. Remember the pre-paid revolution ushered in, for the emerging markets, by the telecom big boys from the Western world? Competition from other industries can also be a source of immense learning and disruption. After all, those looking within their own industries for inspiration are not very different from ship-wreck survivors merely exchanging oars within the same lifeboat. No one will get any further or any faster than the other.

We often recognize threat from potential competitors or changing consumer behavior, but lack the ability to organize this input into an executable plan for disrupt-and-preserve. What would be useful is a lens to see what to disrupt, when to disrupt and to what end. Then, perhaps, the threat of destruction by our inability to adapt, and also the best defense, under the circumstances, will be visible with equal clarity.

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