Monday, August 21, 2017

Disruption: Are you the next Kodak or are you the next Nintendo?

If I had a dollar for every business-y buzzword that was used in the meetings I attended, I’d have all the dollars. We’ve all been there, am I right? How many times have you been sitting in a conference room secretly rolling your eyes every time you hear one of these cringe-worthy words or expressions about pivoting or opening the kimono?

But….every once in a while, there’s a gem mixed in with all of the corporate double speak.
Disruption. That’s a word that can be misused or even mistaken for a buzzword and it’s anything but.

It’s often misunderstood and attached to negative connotations. To be a disruptor means you want to evoke palpable change in the marketplace and since businesses with the ability to change are often the ones that win in the marketplace, the word is neither buzzword-y nor negative.

It’s also a term that many reserve for smaller companies or startups comprised of three Ivy League grads sitting at a card table in a Silicon Valley incubator eating ramen noodles and pulling all-nighters. But guess what? ANYONE can be a disruptor. Any company, any size, any industry and of any age.

Disruption does not discriminate.

Don’t believe me? I have one word for you – Nintendo. Hear me out.

Nintendo entered the marketplace in 1889 (that’s right, not 1989) with the purpose of providing interactive games and they did just that with their first product - playing cards. As the market evolved, it would have been “easy” to let many opportunities pass and remain a playing card company. Nintendo did the opposite of that. They became pioneers, disruptors.

As the marketplace continued to change, so did they. They constantly delivered new iterations of interactive entertainment to meet the market demands and remain innovative and relevant. They went from cards, to board games, to video games and beyond.

It’s a solid example of a major company stirring things up in the market. Keep in mind though, that it doesn’t just happen and businesses certainly don’t do it on their own. It’s the people within a company that are the actual disruptors. It’s the people who come up with these incredible, industry-changing ideas. It’s the people who execute them. And by the way, it’s the people who listen to other people to really have a finger on the pulse. What other people? Ah, those would be your customers.

The voices of your customers are your guide to being a successful disruptor, listen to them carefully because they hold the secrets to your future. If you want to keep it fresh, exciting and disrupt the heck out of your industry like Nintendo has been doing for more than125 years there are three key things you NEED to do.

1) Be purpose-obsessed.
Determine what your true purpose is and what you are willing to throw away to remain true to it. Kodak’s purpose was to “Share moments. Share life.” if they had remained true to it they would have thrown away the old notion of selling film and led the marketplace in sharing those moments digitally.

2) Encourage an entrepreneurial culture
Create an entrepreneurial culture from leaders to the front line.

Young Steve Sasson, employee at Kodak with short tenure actually invented the digital camera. Executives at the company didn’t believe that anyone would ever want to look at photos on a “TV set” and no one was complaining about film prints - they had been around more than 100 years and were inexpensive. The company shelved the idea because being so invested in film that focusing on digital would cannibalize their own business.

3) Create a Unique Customer Experience.
Sometimes your customers know exactly what they want and it’s up to you to give it to them before your competitor does. Then there are times when you can provide your customers with an experience, a WOW, they never imagined for themselves. So do it. Wow them.

The digital camera experience allows everyone to be a professional photographer. It isn’t just about the picture taking itself. The experience is about sharing images and downloading, saving,  printing and performing your own touch-ups and photo edits – it’s about the control, personalization, and empowerment it created for the consumer.


Even if business is great, even if your products and services are resonating in the marketplace today, don’t get too comfortable. Always put yourself in the seat of the customer and ask yourself, what do I want? What do I need that would I walk past other providers to get? Ask yourself, what does the customer want or need that they don’t yet know they want or need? Disrupt and encourage your people to do the same and you too could will build a legacy that transcends three centuries, just like Nintendo.

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