The Six Disruptive Forces That Will Turn Your Business Upside Down

If I asked you to name a disruptive company – quick! – I reckon there’s a pretty good chance you would name Uber. And that’s fair enough. There’s no doubt Uber has disrupted the taxi industry – a long-established, entrenched industry that’s completely been turned upside down by Uber.

And hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear some speaker at a conference talking about “The Uberisation of [their industry]” or “Uberfying [their business]”.

So yes, Uber is certainly the poster child for digital disruption, but it shouldn’t be!

Let me tell you about my new insurance company …

My insurance broker recently reviewed all my insurance policies and recommended a number of changes – including moving me to AIA for one of my insurances (TPD or trauma, I think??? I don’t know – insurance talk puts me to sleep, but I trust Todd to do the right thing for me).

AIA gave me better coverage (tick!) and for a lower premium (tick! tick!), but also gave me some unexpected benefits as part of their AIA Vitality program. One of the biggest benefits is a 10% discount on all Qantas flights. As somebody who lives in Perth and travels a lot, that’s a huge benefit – and is worth more to me than the lower premium (but, hey, I’m not knocking that back).

So why is AIA disruptive?

You might look at this and think that’s nothing special. So a company is offering some extra benefits that might give it a competitive edge over others in the industry. Smart? Yes. But disruptive? Hmmm …

And I agree that AIA isn’t disrupting the insurance industry. But it has a huge impact on the travel industry.

Most travel agents struggle to make anything near 10% margin on airline bookings. Suddenly, along comes somebody else – a random company from completely outside their industry – who pulls the rug out from under them.

And you know what? AIA probably didn’t even think about it. They weren’t trying to compete in the travel industry – they just found a smart way to attract more customers. The travel agents are just unfortunate victims of this smart idea.

What about Uber?

Uber is different. Sure, it’s disruptive, but it has deliberately taken on an established industry.

It’s not just a startup, but an upstart, because it plays outside the rules. It was – and sometimes still is – illegal in many places, but it offers such a compelling experience that governments and society are changing the rules to allow it.

The taxi industry could have done many of the things Uber does – online payments, no credit card fees, GPS tracking, cashless commerce, driver/passenger ratings, and so on – but chose not to, until it was too late. Sure, there were some other things the taxi industry couldn’t do, but there were so many things it could have done. But it was in a tightly regulated, tightly controlled, profitable industry – and didn’t see the writing on the wall.

These are two of the six disruptive forces.

Uber is a Level 4 disruptive force – an upstart (somebody who disrupts an industry from outside, sometimes breaking the rules).

AIA is at Level 5 – a random (somebody who disrupts a completely separate industry – sometimes unintentionally).

In total, there are six kinds of disruptive forces: competitor, dominator, startup, upstart, random, and terminator.

You can probably guess what some of these mean, but if you’d like to know more about them in detail, watch my recent webinar recording:

After the webinar, I asked participants “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” Here are some of their answers:

“Putting my mind to exercise thinking about how those specific technologies will affect my businesses future, along with/after your great example of Driverless..”

“Reminder of the different types of disrupters”

“That you got us to ‘see’ snapshots of our future, and that people love that, which is why fortune tellers are so compelling. So I can become more interesting if I make people ‘present’ to their futures. (this is not something you taught directly, just a kind of meta-message)”

“Different types of competition in business”

“Thinking of what the future looks like”


What Next?

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