Common responses of executives going through Disruption:
“Our customers don’t fully understand the value we give them.”
“We'll fix the brand when we get to it.”
“We can't keep up with staffing needs.”
“Revenue is more important than profit.”
“We can’t keep up with demand.”
“Ready. Fire. Aim.”
Disruption is the most talked about phase and the most rarely seen. Every brand wants to disrupt, but the reality is that disruption requires sacrifice. Most disruptive brands are unprofitable for years before it finally comes together—the classic “twenty-year overnight success.” If you think you’re about to disrupt, know that the deck is heavily stacked against you. And if you’ve been slugging it out as a disruptor for years...well, you may yet have a ways to go.
Exhilaration. Breakthroughs. Failure.
Companies in the Disruption Phase have often seen around a corner. They’re breaking new ground and shaking old foundations—sometimes even their own. They’ve recognized an unmet need, an inefficient process, a broken business model, or an opportunity enabled by new technology. And rather than becoming victims of creative destruction, they’re determined to disrupt the market themselves.
But a new idea is not enough. McDonald’s wasn’t the first hamburger joint. Walmart was late to the retail game. Friendster existed long before Facebook, Netscape was the original Internet Explorer, Yahoo was once the world’s greatest search engine, and Amazon wasn’t the first to sell books online. Many of the products snapped up and distributed by PepsiCo and P&G were invented elsewhere.
Disruption is critical, but it is never enough. That’s why nine out of ten startups fail and the vast majority of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent annually on R&D have an ROI of zero.
The last thing you want to do is disrupt the market for someone else. Generating traction and establishing early momentum is critical. That requires investment capital, the right business model, insight into the evolving (or emerging) market, the right management team, and an endless supply of optimism and perseverance.
And still, there’s no guarantee.
Ahead is the Acceleration Phase. Your job is to get there.
Become who you were designed to be.
Forces at Work
If you’re truly in the Disruption Phase, we don’t need to tell you the importance of understanding the forces at work. You’ve got a bead on a new technology, a new demand, or a new opportunity, and you’re hoping nobody else is seeing it. It’s wise, but difficult, to look over your shoulder every now and then to see what’s coming up behind you.
Organizations in this phase have the least clarity on their identity. What your brand will become has yet to be crafted by what succeeds and what doesn’t. Now might be a good time to journal: if your work pays off, you’re going to want to look back and remember what got you there.
Plans at this phase last for hours or weeks, not years or decades. That’s okay, but it doesn’t eliminate the need for planning. As Eisenhower observed, plans are nothing; planning is everything. Even if you keep changing plans, keep making them.
Take the 5-minute diagnostic.
You’re not ready for us…yet.
If you’re truly in Disruption Phase, we’re probably not a good fit for your business. But we will be someday.
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