You Might Not See This Disruption Before It’s Too Late

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the hospitality industry, with many restaurants, pubs, and hotels experiencing their worst times ever. But rather than letting their rooms remain empty, one Swedish hotel, Stadt, in the town Lidkoping, is offering rooms as private dining rooms.

Instead of booking a table at a restaurant, where there are concerns about social distancing, parties of 2-12 people can book a room at the hotel. They place an order by phone to the hotel restaurant, the food is delivered to the room, and the customers enjoy a private dining experience for two and a half hours. Of course, because this is a hotel room, diners also have the option to extend their experience by staying overnight.

I’ve shared this idea before in the context of a business finding an innovative use for its unused assets. But it’s worth also considering it from the perspective of nearby restaurants. Local high-end restaurants, who are already struggling, might suddenly find themselves losing business to a completely unexpected competitor: a hotel! And it’s not a ruthless competitor who sees an opportunity to grab market share; it’s simply another struggling business with an innovative idea.

This is an example of a random disrupting a business, and it’s one of the six kinds of disruptive forces that could turn your business upside down:

I won’t go into each of these in detail, but here’s a quick overview:

  • Competitors: The traditional “disruptors” – the competitors who you’re fighting head-to-head for market share
  • Dominators: A large external player – like a Google, government regulator, or coronavirus pandemic – that disrupts everybody in an industry
  • Startups: New players in the industry who don’t have the assets of established businesses, but also don’t have their baggage and sunk costs
  • Upstarts: External competitors who operate a different business model that isn’t bound by the same rules and regulations as everybody else (Uber and Airbnb are examples)
  • Randoms: The unintentional competitor from outside your industry who disrupts your business without even trying to compete
  • Terminators: The innovators outside your industry who can make it obsolete (such as self-driving cars, which could make parking obsolete)

As I said, the Stadt hotel’s initiative is a random disruptor to local restaurants. Here are three other examples:

  • At the height of the pandemic, some gin distilleries switched to making hand sanitiser, potentially competing with manufacturers of hygiene and cleaning products.
  • An insurance company was offering a 5% discount on Qantas flight bookings, competing with travel agents who often operate on low margins.
  • An owner of a commercial building offered free training rooms to its corporate tenants, competing with businesses that rent out training spaces.

In some cases – such as the hotel and the distilleries – these are only temporary disruptors, because they were filling an urgent need that will diminish as the coronavirus risk decreases. So the “disrupted” businesses can ride out that storm.

But other businesses might not be so lucky.

Could YOU be disrupted by a random competitor?

Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Who else could – without too much effort – offer the same product or service we offer?
  2. What other products or services could we offer – without too much effort – that could disrupt some other business?
  3. Either way, how could we approach these other businesses as partners rather than competitors?


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