How you can become a disruptor in business

Inspired by the success stories of companies like Airbnb, Netflix and Uber? If you’re full of ideas and keen to change the status quo, then disruptive innovation is the theory you need to embrace.

RELATED: Breaking down disruption and what it means for your business

Ask yourself some of these questions to stimulate your thinking:

Are there new customers to be discovered?

Both Uber and Airbnb embodied one of the main principles of disruption innovation in that they were spawned by identifying a flaw in a traditional model and its attributes. They found alternative benefits and embraced the power of people in the market as both customers and creators.

Airbnb found new customers in people who didn’t enjoy or couldn’t afford traditional forms of accommodation. “Great disruptors are great at understanding human psychology,” confirmed Chip Conley, strategic thought leader and change agent at Airbnb. They also unearthed new business opportunities for those who wanted to rent out their home, creating a self-fulfilling business model of both supplier and customer.

Uber was the same, developing a new workforce of drivers and delivering a fresh product to an existing customer base who were dissatisfied with current transport options.

Your disruption challenge – ask yourself:

What is it about the industry I’m in that could change for the better?
What do customers find frustrating?
Where could I switch things in the creation and supply stage?

Can you successfully disrupt your own business?

What could happen if you stopped trying to compete in a market and instead, created a new one? If you can put a modern, savvy new solution in place of a dated, clunky existing process, you're likely to generate interest and growth.

Don’t be afraid to disrupt your own market either – Apple essentially disrupted their laptop business with the development of the iPhone and it didn’t render laptops redundant, it grew the market. “Most companies that are great at something … do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business,” Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings said in a blog post when launching the streaming service. “Eventually these companies realise their error of not focusing enough on the new thing, and then the company fights desperately and hopelessly to recover.”

Think big, then formulate a plan. Many disruptive thinkers (including Airbnb) use Lean Startup and Design Thinking to structure their ideas and help them become reality.

Your disruption challenge – ask yourself:

What is changing in my current industry?
Where are customers heading and what areas are seeing large or rapid growth?
What new innovation could I create to capture those customers and own market share from the outset?

Create a team culture that nurtures creative, outside the box thinking and brainstorming


How can technology help?

Understanding how consumers will (or could) use your product in the future will help support inspiration and ideas. Become a quick adopter of new technology to help grow your business. For example, embracing fresh payment systems like Afterpay, which allows people to shop now and pay later, motivating new customers and driving sales.

Stay up to date with what’s in development and what’s launching by attending tech conferences in your area or reading sites like Mashable, Small Biz Trends, Inside Small Business, Entrepreneur (or even the tech and innovation sections of news sites for insights). Reach out to tech companies that have developed products like apps or sites you admire and ask them what they see as the future.

Being on the forefront of technological innovation will help your business grow because you’ll know what is available to support new ideas and how tech can make things better.

Your disruption challenge – ask yourself:

How could technology change the way people use and pay for my services?
How can I embrace that change for the better?
What hasn’t been developed yet that could help create new opportunities for my business?
What relationships can I form to drive that development?

Technology can help you to communicate your USP to a wider audience and better convert customers

As a business owner, you know your trade better than anyone else – and you know that small business is no place for apathy. It’s also the perfect launch pad for you to develop the future you want. Senator Fiona Nash, Minister for Regional Development, put it best: “If you do not disrupt your business yourself, someone else will.”

Three key tips to embracing disruption:

1. Understand the market and the customer. Find the ‘white space’ and strategise on how to fill it. What point of difference can you provide to capture interest in and conversion with your customers?

2. Think outside the box. Don’t let current status quo stop you – technology is capable of helping you achieve great things and is changing rapidly. What you need to fulfil your dream may not have even been invented yet… but it may be very soon.

3. Set up for change. Create an ‘innovation’ budget so you can afford to undergo trial and error. Work with your team to create flexible work environments that stimulate their creativity and encourage big thinking. Share your lofty goals with your team and create a culture where disruptive thinking is nurtured. Ensure your administration and processes are flexible enough to adapt if need be, to embrace new forms of development and delivery.