It is time that we find a new word in our lexicon.
The words “disruptive” or “disruption” may sound innovative, cool and forward-thinking, but believing that disruptive is the only way to success has gotten us to a place where the vast majority of start-ups fail.
Customers want the companies they work with to understand not only what they want but help them achieve their goals and give them what they need.
As everyone tries to be “new” and “innovative,” they are forgetting the purpose of being in business, and that is to solve real problems for real customers. It is rarely the new and shiny object that gets things done, but rather a simple change in direction, utilizing current processes, procedures, and systems in a new way that creates real success.
Companies and the people within them have no desire to live in a constant state of chaos that a “disruptive” mentality brings. By constantly being “disruptive” enormous amounts of capital, time and human investment must be focused on things that may or may not solve the problems that exist. This leads to stretching both real capital and human capital to its limit constantly and not investing capital where it can do the most good and produce the best results.
I am not saying that we should never innovate, far from it, but this is why large companies innovate slowly.
Large, and enterprise-level corporations, realize the chaos that would ensue through constantly integrating “disruptive solutions” into their ecosystem. Not only is there the capital costs of integrating new solutions, not only in costs of hardware and software but more important training, downtime and client inconvenience. It is a risk and reward dance. How much innovation, how quickly? Too little and you get left behind, but too much and you can completely create a worse problem than the one you are trying to solve. Look no further than the Canadian Government and the implementation of the Phoenix Payroll System. By bringing this system on too fast, without the proper testing and fail safe measures, it will end up costing the Canadian taxpayer billions before it is resolved.
This is the problem that many, if not most, start-ups do not consider. The questions that should be at the front of every entrepreneur’s mind are:
- Am I solving a problem that already exists?
- Can I implement this solution easily into the environments of my customers in ways that will cause them little risk for larger rewards?
- If one and two are a yes, can I do this in a manner that the customer that I have targeted can afford?
At this point, a start-up is no longer being disruptive; they are creating a viable, actionable solution to an existing problem that has an opportunity to succeed.
Let me give you a real-life example. Carey Anne Nadeau is the President and CEO of ODNSure. ODNSure realized that nationally forty-thousand people die annually from car accidents. She and her team also realized that nationally, there is an enormous amount of data on driving conditions, road maintenance, weather patterns, areas of serious accidents and other points available for her to analyze. The reason that she can get access to data from governments and industry easily is that she is not looking for individual personal information. She is far more interested in the place the accident occurred and the conditions at the time and not so much about who was driving the car. Because of that fact, she can collect her data and use artificial intelligence to interpret it in ways that most individual organizations cannot. It is the amalgamation of data and her company’s ability to interpret it that enables her to sell that information back to insurance companies, city, state, and federal governments to help them put into place solutions to make roads safer. Think about that the next time an advanced signal light is installed at a corner you know has a high propensity for traffic accidents.
ODNSure is not “disruptive” because they understand what the needs, wants and limitations are of their clients and work with them to help solve real problems in cost-effective ways.
Even in my own business, a “disruptive” mindset creates challenges. We help companies engage, retain and grow their most valuable assets, their employees and help them develop better leaders through more effective communication. The challenge is if the company that hires us only pays lip service to be employee-centric and does not live the values of their mission, vision, and values, bringing me in to help is money ill-spent. I can only help organizations that want to change from the top-down and companies who believe that the way they are currently doing business is costing them money and valuable employees.
“Disruptive” training methods will never change those who truly have no desire to change.
Businesses need to think first and foremost about what problems they solve and who are the people for which they solve them.
They need to understand their customers before they understand themselves because if they do not, they will never be able to sell their solution into their customer’s ecosystem. By not understanding their budgetary issues, technology challenges, legacy or otherwise, people issues, politics, and how and why they serve their customers, how can a solution be developed that truly benefits them?
- Too few start-ups take the time to go out and interview companies that could be potential clients before they write the first line of code or develop the prototype.
- Too few start-ups take the time to research who they believe their top ten clients should be, or at least their first ten, and find out how to best communicate with them on their terms.
- Too few start-ups take the time to build relationships with non-competing vendors who currently sell into their potential customers to find out the challenges of working with that company could be, i.e. payment terms and conditions.
In the race to be seen as the “disruptive” choice are start-ups running through an unmarked minefield that could kill them? In this author’s opinion, yes!
Now is the time to lose the “disruptive” mindset. There is nothing wrong with seeking out a new way of solving a problem or being innovative in your approach, but far too few businesses want to be “disrupted.” The chaos that comes from it, both internal and external, the potentially higher risk than reward, and the opportunity for bankruptcy by picking the wrong “disruptive” partner is real.
A far better solution is to be a consultative partner with clients. Understand their needs, their challenges, their apprehensions, and their goals and then help them innovate in a manner that enables them to be competitive in the future and build upon their success. Those are the clients that will be loyal, work with you through challenges and recommend you to others.