“Disrupting” for the sake of it? Think it through better

Innovation, disrupt, pivot… These buzz words are used so much in today’s business world that you could create lorem ipsum text that would sound like a lot of blog posts out there. There’s a focus on innovation and reevaluating how we’ve come to accept the world around us. Did you know there are devices that can turn any surface into a touch screen? If you prefer not to push virtual buttons, you can use a voice-enabled tool that can even order you an Uber (yet another disruptive player in the startup game).

This forward-thinking is great, and it’s changing the world. But when we read the stories, we see the results, not all of the hard work and failures that led there. We also miss out on most of the stories of failed startups, because who wants to read about that? This is a dangerous cocktail for young professionals entering the workforce, who think that they can achieve success with one good idea, or by “disrupting” an industry.

When an industry shifts because of a new player, it’s because new solutions met an underlying need more efficiently than whatever other services were available. Amazon Echo uses voice-controlled AI (her name is Alexa) to help you manage your home and life. Airbnb shook up the hotel industry with peer-to-peer short-term rentals. Ride sharing services like Grabcar are changing the game for public transportation and traditional taxicabs. These are amazing innovations, disruptive startups, and they solve problems beautifully.

But if you’re trying to create a “disruptive startup” just for the sake of it, you’re wasting everyone’s time.  Picture this conversation between yourself and a young professional.

“What are you working on right now?”

“I’m trying to create a disruptive startup.”

He doesn’t know which industry he wants to focus on, or even what his startup would do aside from ‘be disruptive.’ If he got a team together right now and told them to go to work, he would be wasting everyone’s time with the lack of direction.

“To provide remote teams with simple, efficient project management tools” is a mission statement. “To disrupt the [BLANK] industry” is not.

The bottom line here is you need a good idea, solid strategy, and persistent execution. Even if you have all those things your business may or may not disrupt any industries, but it 100% absolutely will not disrupt anything without clear vision and planning. Instead of focusing on disruption, focus on utility.

Similarly, I’ve seen pride and idealism get in the way of education. Someone thinks they will completely change how an industry works by doing everything differently, so they don’t even bother learning the basics because they find the rules too rigid. It’s like trying to be a chef without learning the various basic chopping skills. If you want to change something, at least learn it first so you can decide whether it needs changing–before you declare you’ll find your own way. Don’t let the experience of the professionals who came before you and passed down their skills go to waste.

If I could draw, I would include a little graphic here that shows;

You + Education = Your years of experience + History of the industry

Versus

You + Grit and an ‘innovative mentality’ = Your years of experience + Failures that others may have already made before you

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