What Successful Disruptors Know Part 2: Question the Status Quo

September 1, 2015 Tim Girgenti

I kicked off this blog series by describing the four key practices that enable today’s biggest innovators to adapt to disruption and even create significant new opportunities from change. Now let’s take a closer look at one of those practices: Question the status quo.

In Apple’s famous “Think Different” advertising campaign, the company had something to say about those who push humankind forward: “They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo.” That pretty much describes Jet.com.

Launched on July 21, Jet.com is reinventing e-commerce with a club-style shopping experience that will go head-to-head with Amazon. Think of an amped-up, Web version of Costco or Sam’s, offering consumers a unique choice that promises great deals on everything from TVs to toilet paper.

I don’t know whether this model will upend Amazon or change the whole market, but it will be interesting to see how this battle plays out as Amazon, the original e-commerce innovator and whose market capitalization just topped Walmart, will no doubt fight back.

Innovators like Jet, Amazon, and many more often begin with a simple “what if” question. What if you could crowdsource everything a city has to offer? Foursquare. What if you could easily rent a unique place to stay from a local host? Airbnb.

Endless curiosity and asking the right questions that are bold, sometimes counterintuitive, and maybe even a little crazy-sounding at first, is what drives innovation. Because if you’re still doing business the way you always have, someone, somewhere just might figure out a way to do it better, faster, and cheaper. One way to avoid being caught off guard is by fending off stagnation.

Below are three tips for fighting the status quo:

  • Be open to change. It begins by looking at everything in your business with a fresh perspective, and figuring out how you can do it better now—with an eye on what your business and the future might look like 10 and 20 years from now.
  • Adapt with new capabilities. The status quo may seem like the easier option. It’s less risky. It’s what we know. But that’s how companies can fall behind. One way to stay ahead is to evaluate breakthrough technology and ideas from outside your industry. Because, chances are, the technology that will revolutionize your industry is already transforming another industry right now.
  • Live the customer experience. Being close to your customers often spurs innovation. You’re able to dissect what’s working and even reinvent it, creating and capturing new markets along the way. And just as important as keeping a close watch on your customers, it’s always a good idea to know what your competitors are doing differently. The Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas is a great tool and exercise for charting innovation and differentiation, with both the customer and the competition in mind.

Future success relies on the ability to see what’s ahead and understanding the value of key developments and trends. Questioning the norm enables companies to gain the kind of enhanced vision that can translate into a whole new level of strategic thinking and performance.

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