by: Brydon Gilliss
Advancements in technology are changing how people live, work, and play. It’s also changing what consumers expect from the companies that serve them. When these changes happens faster than companies can keep up, we often refer to it as disruption.
Disruption is a topic close to our hearts at Highline BETA. It’s both a challenge and an opportunity. As consumer behaviours, business models, and technology change, they create massive opportunities for companies to address existing, and developing customer needs in innovative and new ways.
We work with companies to get them into the game caused by this disruption, so they can stop playing defence – and start playing offence.
A lot of businesses still view disruption as a singular event in time, treating it like a waypoint or a milestone they need to get past. They accept that their business is going to be disrupted, they put a plan in place to survive it. Their mindset is that it’s a storm they need to survive, rebuild and get back to business as usual.
The truth is that disruption is a cycle – and that cycle is accelerating. It represents a new model for how your business operates. This is not a singular event that washes over your company and then fades into the distance. This is the new status quo. The cycles are shortening and will continue to do so.
New businesses are building disruption directly into their business processes. The irony is that they’re doing this while their core business is busy disrupting the incumbents of the day. They know that it’s coming for them before they even establish themselves. They’re plotting against the business they have yet to finish creating.
Even Jeff Bezos recently admitted to his team that Amazon will eventually go bankrupt: "if you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years."
Companies that accept this can plan for disruption, rather than be consumed by it. The ones that move fast enough will be the ones shaping the future – not reacting to it
One aspect of disruption that companies often overlook is the real opportunities these changes create within your current business. Companies need to shift their mindset from fear to opportunity.
What waste will be created from the disruption you see coming in your industry? How can you capitalize on that? If you can’t capitalize on it directly, can you partner with startups or other companies in leveraging it?
For example: changing consumer behaviours, including changing retail, online shopping and more, are impacting warehousing space usage. This is creating waste in the form of unused warehouse space. A number of startups are targeting this opportunity. Flexe, a startup out of Seattle, is building a network of over 1000 warehouses that are available on-demand through their software platform.
A second example: cars today spend around 95% of their time parked, and only 5% of the time in use. With the growth of on-demand ridesharing, autonomous vehicles and more effective public transit it’s not inconceivable to see those numbers flip. These disruptions will create massive waste in the form of unused parking infrastructure. Communities are starting to contemplate other uses for parking structures such as parks, art galleries, and places to live. Retail outlets are reclaiming portions of parking to build new restaurants.
The question is how you’ll deal with it. Can you leverage the discards or under-utilized assets created by disruption to your benefit?
In many cases, incumbents may be in the best position to predict where these opportunities will arise. If they are ready to seize the opportunity, they can then leverage the discards caused by disruption to subsequently expand into and disrupt other markets.
This is the challenge they will face in coming years: find and leverage the waste (devaluing assets) from the incumbent businesses, and turn that waste into net new opportunities.