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How Executives Can Use Disruption to Stay Ahead

Disruption is hardly a new business concept; change is the only constant. But are you actually prepared for it?

According to a Click Z survey, more than 75 percent of respondents were aware of “digital transformation” as an industry term, but less than half had a plan to address it. Technology and business model changes are only half of the battle—businesses must also be prepared to pivot in response to disruptions from other companies.

We all know that change is inevitable. Take some simple steps to stay ahead of it.

Start with an Agile Business Model

A business prepared for the digital transformation is one prepared to pivot in response to market shifts. The best athletes, for example, are ones who can anticipate screens and change their routes, barreling to the basket, end zone, or goal. Businesses operate much the same way. Those that look internally to the company culture to embrace change and anticipate disruption are best prepared to come out on top.

Take the hotel industry as an example—a field that’s weathered big changes in the light of technology. With the advent of Expedia and Hotels.com, hotel chains went from comfortably handling their own bookings to paying websites a 25-percent commission. Just as they started to recover from that disruption, Airbnb and businesses like it exploded on the scene and revolutionized the industry yet again.

Chip Conley, CEO of Joie Di Vivre Hospitality, adapted an agile business model and did more than just weather the storm: He got ahead. By adapting Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and making self-actualization and social belonging a part of his commercial plan, he created brand loyalty in a volatile market.

Make Agility Part of Your Company Culture

It’s easy to say that you’re going to adopt an agile business model, but putting it into practice is a different matter entirely. Making changes to your company culture is the easiest way to start. Here’s how you can do this:

  • Be a champion of innovation. Disruptors are all innovators, but not all innovators are necessarily disruptors. Think of it this way: A disruptor fundamentally changes the way an industry behaves. Netflix revolutionized the way we watch movies and TV. Spotify changed the way we listen to music. You don’t have to disrupt your industry, but you do need to be prepared to innovate constantly.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Keep every member in your team in the loop and embrace new ideas. We no longer operate in a top-down approach, and we should never isolate our departments. Employees who feel valuable are more likely to share ideas and go the extra mile.
  • Be willing to collaborate with other leaders, wherever they might sit. This doesn’t apply only to sharing ideas with other members of the C-suite. Effective leaders co-create; they don’t dictate. While you may guide the vision, be willing to work with multiple members of a management team.

Keep a Pulse on the Industry

If agility is the key to getting ahead during business disruption, complacency will be your death rattle. Companies that become complacent and ignore industry trends wind up in end-of-year business failure articles—think Blockbuster in response to Netflix or Kodak in response to the digital boom.

As a business leader, you must keep a pulse on the industry, where it is heading, and then anticipate where disruption might occur. Starbucks, for example, recently launched mobile ordering, recognizing its popularity in other food enterprises. Skip the wait and pick up your beverage on your own terms—that’s the idea the company is selling to consumers nationwide.

Prepare to Disrupt

Finally, align your business ideals with your goals for the digital future. Preparing for this isn’t an easy task, I know. You’re already constrained by small budgets, fighting competitors for the best talent, and juggling priorities to stay ahead. But setting and following through on goals is an essential step in anticipating disruption. Research from Deloitte found that almost 90 percent of digitally mature organizations actively integrate their digital plans into their overall strategies.

Transforming your operations to thrive on business disruption requires a comprehensive approach. Combining a variety of leadership styles with collaboration and creative vision is half the battle. The other half is keeping a pulse on your industry, investing in innovative talent, and ingraining the digital transformation into every aspect of your enterprise.

Photo Credit: kamiltasan Flickr via Compfight cc

Eric Vidal

Eric Vidal is the Senior VP of Marketing & Principal at BroadSuite Media Group (BMG), a strategic partner of V3B and The Marketing Scope. Eric heads up the lead generation services for brands both large and small, and is a recognized leader in start-ups, marketing, content marketing, lead generation, advertising, tracking behavior, PR, messaging, social media, online events and web collaboration.