A question that falls into the category “if you have to ask…” but one you should be asking. If you’re in a stagnant or mature industry, assume consumers will behave the same way forever or change slowly, it’s too late. You can’t simply offer a decent product or service with a solid history, sit back, and expect the product to keep doing all the work. If you’re plodding along, maintaining the status quo, and excitement and buzz are a thing of the past, well, you may be begging for disruption.
Disruption in innovation and business can happen overnight if you’re not paying attention to the intellectual property of your competitors—even those you don’t yet know about. Ignoring change won’t make it go away. Disruption as a business model is here, and it’s here to stay. Today’s customers no longer settle but constantly look for new, better, faster, cheaper. If you’re not already working on your next consumer product, that venerable lady is warming up her pipes and about to sing.
If you’re worried enough to be concerned about disappearing market share, start investigating the technology landscape in your industry right now. Smart companies not only recognize early disruption rumblings but embrace them. Nothing jars an industry awake like innovation. Become aware of key disruption indicators, and you can avoid being left in the never-settling dust.
First Comes IP Analysis
What if you could take a look into the future and actually see what your competitors are doing? That would virtually eliminate the possibility of being disrupted. You do need to know who those competitors are, however, and sometimes the biggest disruptions come from the unknowns. Just ask Blockbuster if they had any idea that Netflix was out there—or Gillette if they were aware of Dollar Shave Club.
It’s so much more than a technology landscape, though that’s the foundation for the reports we build. The idea behind searching the available information on your competitors’ IP is to get a sense of the technology that already exists within your space. With the right eye toward IP, some of those outliers can also be found. Did you know we were able to identify a potential oil well drilling patent from IP filed for a minimally invasive surgical product?
When you work with innovation consultants that always put the intellectual property at the forefront, then you always get the full picture.
Consumers and Relationships
If you don’t learn to connect with the people that really matter--your consumers--beyond basic supply/demand and buy/sell relationships, your industry and company will be left behind. Many companies tend to focus not on the value provided to their customers, both measureable and perceived, but on profit and revenue data. The voice of the customer should be the very thing that spurs you toward innovation.
Talk to your consumers. Remember they are real people, and truly listen to their concerns. Don’t find excuses to ignore their opinions and feedback. Focus innovation on alleviating their problems and concerns, not yours. Consumers can also keep you informed on disruptors within your industry, and help you keep tabs on competitors both old and new.
Focus groups may be your chosen method for gaining consumer insight, but it’s not always an accurate portrayal of consumer wants. Social media has made building relationships just as important as making products or supplying services. You can learn a lot about what buyers think about your products if you’re willing to listen—just don’t ask them. Instead, search for your company in social mentions to get the real picture.
And again, none of this even matters if you haven’t investigated the IP involved. We once worked with a client who came to us after performing focus groups to hear the voice of the customer. They really thought they were on track for something huge. Only then did they ask us to check the IP involved.
Essentially, they wasted 18 months developing a product that would never make it to commercialization because they should have checked the IP first to find the potential roadblocks. While they were conducting focus groups, a competitor filed the necessary patents.
When a disruptive innovation becomes mainstream and a viable competitor is in the market, and you don’t have a response strategy either in place or on the very near horizon, you might already be too late. Even if you’re first to market with your genius product, a bigger, wealthier company can snatch the rug right out from under you. Consider the possible struggles facing Ring, the video doorbell company, as Google continues to add products to their Nest smart home line.
If you’ve been paying attention to your market, competitors, and customers, and have a strategy to address potential disruption, have you:
- Identified the advantages of your company’s and employees’ core competencies?
- Ensured your corporate strategy is keeping pace with the market?
- Investigated the movement within your industry for white space?
- Checked the IP throughout the entire process?
Don’t get Ubered. Even Uber could be Ubered if they stop paying attention and seeking wild and wonderful ways to provide convenience to consumers (see: Uber Chopper).
Disruptive innovations aren’t going away. Use the forces of disruption to drive new growth and develop disruptions of your own...before it is too late.