All the current talk about digital disruption, and how technology is making old business and service models obsolete, is missing a fundamental truth about why disruption is happening.
Everybody has access to the same technology, but some people are just able to create a better story about what they can do with it.
Unfortunately, almost everybody is focussed on the technology; some people are obsessed with it.
When you look at the businesses that are winning in the new economy almost all of them are simply telling a better story than either their competition or the incumbent businesses.
By better I mean different and more engaging for the customer. A story where the customers say to themselves: “Yeah, I get that, I can see how that would make my life better.”
Take for example Drift. It’s main product is a chatbot, but that’s not what it’s selling. It’s selling “conversational marketing” and “conversations not forms” the ability for sales people to have virtually instant communication with leads.
In the process it makes online forms, email and crm based lead management look outdated.
Chatbot’s have been around for ages but most vendors were selling the technology and so got mediocre results. Drift sold a new story and became a global smash.
That’s just one example. Apple’s ipads, ipods and iphones are others. There were plenty of tablets, phones and mp3 players around before the Apple products but Apple changed the world with theirs.
That’s because Apple never sells the technology, it sells the story of what you can do with it.
Or Tesla. Electric cars and solar power have been around for decades, but Tesla’s stories have captured the world’s imagination.
I could go on, but hopefully you get the importance of telling a different, more compelling story.
This is not to say digital technology is not important, it is the main enabler of most disruption today.
Technology is Just like Air
To put it another way, the technology available to everyone today is just part of the environment in which most disruptors operate.
That is, they take the digital technology as a given, and then just use it to create whatever business they want. See my previous post on Digital Pizza.
It’s already part of their story, it’s already part of the conversation in which they live and operate.
This mindset is at the heart of most digital disruption, and one that incumbent businesses just don’t seem to get.
So-called digital disruptors are operating a in a completely different paradigm, one closely aligned with what modern customers expect.
They are creating their own story, one that isn’t contaminated by the mouldering corpse of past business models.
Traditional businesses just can’t seem to see or figure out what’s going on, and neither can many of their advisors.
As Jeremy Rifkin says in his wonderful documentary, “The Third Industrial Revolution” this is freaking many people out.
Rifkin goes on to explain (as do many others) that the mindset of the digital generation is completely different to those of other generations.
How to Tell a Disruptive Story
So how do you go about telling a disruptive story? Short answer: You don’t.
That is you shouldn’t set out to be disruptive for disruption’s sake. Rather you should set out to make a great product or service, one that’s better than anything else available.
To do that you need to look at the current market from your customer’s perspective and ask questions about what’s not working, what’s missing, what can you add that will bring incredible value to the customer.
Then look at your own existing offerings and those of your competitors and notice where they don’t measure up.
Doing so takes a bit of work, and honesty and courage, but if you do it fearlessly, the process is transformative.
You will start to see opportunities to create new products and services that never occurred to you before. Then you’ll start to create a new story of what you can create.
This is a creative act; it is not a technological one. You may use the technology to make and deliver the end product, but the invention of the product is one of imagination. That is, the idea, the story always comes first.
Once you have the new product, it allows you to grow the story, to engage your customers and show them how their lives will change if they have your product.
When you change the story, you change the world.
Your Disruption Opportunity
Many businesses simply won’t go down this path for a range of reasons such as: it’s too much work; takes too long; it’s too hard
Most ironic of all they want to use disruption as a way to protect their old business model.
This is where the disruptor’s opportunity lies.
You can bring a new innovative product or service to market with almost no competition, because nobody else is willing to do the work.
Apple is a master of this, so are music and movie streaming services.
While the Hollywood and music establishments try to protect their outdated business models, the world and the customers have moved on to an on demand paradigm.
This is happening in all industries all over the world.
Only companies that change their story are going to survive.