Disruption is happening…so what are you going to do?


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Why do we think that organisations are fixed or static?

Is it simply because, disruption seems to happen so easily at times.

I’m minded of Pixar’s “Inside Out”, for those that have seen it, would remember the character of Joy and her journey through the Islands of Personality in Riley’s mind. When Joy gets to the aptly titled room of “Abstract Thinking”, it seems fixed and stable, then undergoes transformational change, totally disrupts her way of thinking and she has to adapt and be flexible to achieve her goal.

When we see disruption or innovation, should we look to the disruptor or the incumbent?

If I cast my mind back, wasn’t there always that belief that it was best to do business with an established brand. There was always a sense of comfort from knowing that you were dealing with a business that had been run the same way since time immemorial, a stable and therefore a trusted business. Do we still think the same way? Now, when we buy from an innovator or use a service from a disruptor, are we thinking about that longevity or stability or are we thinking something entirely different.
Do you then look inwards and think about your own company…like I do. Does your head also fill up with thoughts that centre on asking why we have very specific conformity rules & practices like, “working hours of 9-5”, or “use Ariel or Times New Roman fonts only or that must be Pantone colour set 345n”?

Non-Conformity at Play
Non-Conformity at Play

Those disruptors & innovators, they are literally the bane of the industry incumbent, not excluding the fact that these businesses throw things like age/gender/experience on their heads and “invert the triangle” almost without blinking – their rulebook is definitely not the same as it is for others. What these businesses do so well, is to look at the incumbents, scan them and pick out their weaknesses and then exploit them – not only in deliverables but in the approach, the manner and the way in which the go about creating the deliverable.

When you do look at the deliverables you then see that over the past decade, there has been a surge of innovators and disrupters. Who, upon entering markets, have quickly capitalised and even more swiftly – moved on to embed themselves as major players within some of the most established industries. Some of these names are already commonplace and that list continues to grow, day by day. Their exploits and achievements have stunned and continue to stun Executives across the globe. There remains, few industries left unscathed by either innovation or disruption. The concern in today’s boardrooms comes from the ease with which these innovative players identify a niche, deliver a minimum viable product and then quickly move to expand and dominate.

What’s more is that this is no longer limited to the Business to Customer (B2C) environment. Once upon a time, it was within the B2C arena in which we would expect to see innovation, driven by the voices of customers, often unintentionally, who would be gesturing for disruption. They saw businesses making their own developments, upgrades or variations. These were based on their own defined strategies and generally ensured additional profitability for the company. However, this left a Customer’s needs and wants as being inadequately resolved, thus opportunities were constantly being opened and then subsequently exploited.

Arguably, innovators were always the ones best placed to create, drive and deliver a customer centric strategy, if only because they have no baggage with the audience. They adopt a fresh perspective on how things are done, then do it differently and often more creatively. Innovators in many cases become disruptors within the market as they changed the way incumbents did business, in the way they think, they learn and improve.

The B2B financial market and its own incumbents are quickly waking up to this changing scenario. It’s a fallacy that B2B companies are sitting quiet and comfortable, immovable or immune to this. The learning’s derived from the Business to Customer arena are discussed frequently by boardroom staff. Executives within incumbents are continuously looking at ways that competitors are developing alternative solutions, at which new technology is making waves and most importantly which Customer needs are they unintentionally glossing over or ignoring. Some are even challenging existing internal practices with simple disruptive behaviour like changing the dress code, hosting only virtual meetings or creating and empowering collaboration units.

From an organisation perspective, we tend to look at the things directly in our control. We look to our stakeholders for information, we want feedback from our Partners and Customers, we want insight and analysis from our competitors and we want our employees to process and action this information to generate some results. That’s all and well but it does bring to mind that oft mis-attributed quote about,

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten”.

Jessie Porter- 1981, in case you were thinking of Henry Ford or Mark Twain.

Looking more closely at what I can see within the financial industry, the lens accorded to this perspective has magnified. When you consider the apt and uniquely termed “Fintech”, a phrase solely geared around technological innovation in finance, the potential opportunity is not insignificant. Fintech innovators are focussing on launching a Minimum Viable Product or “MVP” and using this as a springboard to fine tune, continuously and iteratively, before expansion, ultimately looking at creating a hub or platform that would allow Customers maximum choice and control with their money. Whether it’s through identification of an under-addressed Customer need/want: think Metro bank and its opening hours or whether it’s by pinpointing and focussing on a specific aspect of an all-round solution with a more appealing or responsive technological solution like Starling, which focuses solely on providing mobile banking. A specific need has been identified, a targeted proposition has been built and the door to disruption has been walked through.

Oh and for those “Inside Out” movie buffs, towards the end of the movie… I’d like to think that Joy became the disruptor.

Disruption imminent
Disruption imminent

So, Mr Incumbent – what are you going to do?

Sach Gajree
Siemens Financial Services
Some of my time is spent inspiring, designing and implementing projects that will deliver a shared and unified approach to the trinity of business, customer and employee. At other times, I can be found working with our internal teams, to figure out how data and automation can be best used to increase internal engagement, business analytics, process improvement techniques or customer enhancement capabilities. The remainder of my time is very definitely spent, working on opportunities to collaboratively disrupt from within, be that culturally, digitally or experientially.


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