We’re fascinated with underdogs and overnight successes – companies, products, or services that seem to come out of nowhere and completely change industries and human behaviour.
In the 1990s, Clayton Christensen, tech guru lauded by The New York Times as a “prophet” coined earlier innovative creations like electricity, cars and the internet as disruptive innovations. Christensen defined the term as “technology that heavily impacts the way a market or industry functions.”
30 years later, the next wave of innovation includes software-as-a-service providers, artificial intelligence products, blockchain routing, and virtual and augmented reality. These products led to entirely new ways of communication, work and the way we interact with one another.
Disruptive innovation predicts the needs of the industry and more specifically the consumer. Late adopters of disruptive innovations are often caught flat-footed while competitors take advantage of it as a catalyst for production.
Automation and Integration - what role do they play for small-to-midsize businesses?
Unlike larger firms that are often slower to react, small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) have the agility and flexibility to adopt new technologies to grow their market share.
Industry giants tend to concentrate on incremental innovation — upgrading existing products to attract higher paying customers. With this growth model, companies are at risk of overcomplicating existing offerings with expensive features without noticeably improving the core user experience.
Established companies can often lack the flexibility to adapt to new business threats as quickly as technology-driven competitors. Large entities historically subscribe to new disruptive technologies long after they have already been proven to work.
Even with limited resources, start-ups and SMBs can leverage disruptive innovation to scale, grow and streamline their operations. Automation and integration empower owners to delegate arduous tasks to smart technology. As early adopters, SMBs are able to punch above their weight and compete with their larger and more traditional counterparts.
Then and now - how disruptive innovation has empowered entrepreneurs
Imagine you’re the owner of a small retail business in the early 2000s. As an entrepreneur, you wear a lot of hats — product and marketing strategy, ordering supplies, balancing books, managing the storefront, contracting web developers and more. From accounting to advertising, you find the manual nature of managing the business time-consuming, fragmented and painful — taking away from growing your business.
Accounts payable and receivable are done by hand and payments are made through check or wire transfer at the bank. Larger accounts are kept in a rolodex and your recently launched online presence is clunky and unattractive.
Fast-forward to today, innovative tech stacks are empowering the small business owner to scale and grow globally. AI-powered personal assistants make automated drop-ship ordering easy, while customer relationship management software like Salesforce keep existing customers and new leads organized. Chat-bots powered by Drift answer simple customer inquiries, freeing up your time to focus on growth.
Inefficient, slow international wire transfers, and disorganized accounts receivable and payable processes are a thing of the past. Access to financial tools — like instant deposit, locked exchange rates, wallet capabilities and lending — is simple through next-generation payment providers like Veem.
Innovations in blockchain technology disrupt the legacy banking and finance industry by putting the power of payments back into your hands. With blockchain, a web-based payment platform can execute automated peer-to-peer payments on your behalf, removing several degrees of intermediaries — reducing costs and speeding up transaction times.
Your storefront has adopted a digital presence, using Shopify to drive your eCommerce sales. Augmented reality, video and 3D imaging bring your product to life on smartphones, where customers can use gestures like slide-to-purchase to instantly place an order. Data-driven digital advertising enables you to target your customers where they spend the majority of their time and shoppable social media posts bolster your brand awareness and sales strategy. This omnichannel approach allows you to serve regional and global customers, significantly improving your bottom line.
In short, there are many ways SMBs can save time and reach more customers. It’s a golden era for new and existing owners to outhustle their big competitors. Yet investing in disruptive technology can be a gamble as possible industry-changing products can take time to become mainstream — or even adopted at all. To succeed, entrepreneurs must focus on the issues they’re looking to solve for themselves and for their customers. When executed purposefully and thoughtfully, disruptive innovation has the infinite potential to open up solutions to problems that the big guys are slow to tackle.