IT USED to be that "disruptive" was a bad thing. You didn't want to see it on your child's school report card, and you certainly wanted to avoid being considered disruptive in the workplace.
But disruptive is actually a good thing when aligned with innovation and implemented as a focused strategy to introduce new products or services, enter a new market or attract an entirely different set of customers.
Disruptive innovation is simply an innovation that disrupts an existing market. It's not new, indeed it has been around forever, remember the wheel?
More recently, there's the rise of Ocado and ASOS disrupting High Street retailers and the growing popularity of internet-only banks such as Intelligent Finance disrupting high street banks. Twitter and blogging is disrupting the traditional media business model. And the ability for consumers to download music to mobile devices is disrupting the music industry.
At a more local level, there are also great examples of disruptive innovation at work: INAA.com is a Glasgow company set up in 2010 by Joanne Reid to help hair and beauty companies fill appointments and to help customers find the right salon for them quickly. So far in December, Oceanic Hair and Beauty received more than 900 appointments from the combined efforts of INAA and Groupon.
Vialex is a new legal services company set up in Edinburgh earlier this year by former partners from several large law firms to take advantage of "Tesco Law", allowing companies to provide legal services. As a company rather than as a partnership Vialex is able to offer a more client-focused way of charging for their services - on a fixed fee or retainer basis, rather than the hourly fees charged by law firms. Clearly, disruptive to law firms and to the financial model on which they survive.
And then there's Social Media Search, disrupting the recruitment industry; the Scottish service business launched just four months ago, but is already working with the in-house recruitment teams at a number of FTSE100 and mid-tier companies to provide them with candidate shortlists via social media - at a significantly lower cost than traditional recruitment methods.
It's not always easy to spot but it's on the increase. The impact of disruptive innovation has accelerated as a direct result of businesses working to survive and thrive in recessionary times and people being made redundant and forced to look for new ways to pay the mortgage every month.
In addition, there have been significant changes to regulatory frameworks and the emergence and reliance upon social media as the primary business communication channel.
The common thread is that they all involve a new and/or different way of doing things. Adam Gordon, of Gordon BDM, set up his company in 2009 to help companies with their online professional networking, simply because senior executives are often too busy to manage it themselves.
Gordon recognised the opportunity, put together a few methodologies and soft-tested them with some contacts. The feedback on service and pricing was strong, so on his first day in business, Gordon already had a couple of clients signed up.
The advantages of this business over the mainstream marketing services company he had originally planned to launch were simple; Gordon was able to develop a client base of top level executives in top-tier companies in the early years of his business, a task that would have been much more challenging for a marketing company because of the competition.
Clearly that's the innovative bit, but where was the disruption? Gordon explains that most professional services companies had to cut costs and people, and the marketing spend dropped considerably. At the same time the partners still had to act as rainmakers, and sites like LinkedIn offer a great place for them to do so.
So instead of spending their budget on advertising, telemarketing or putting together expensive publications and events, they can work with Gordon BDM at a fraction of the cost to get them in front of new people.
Clearly there are disadvantages, not least that you need to convince a potential client of the benefit of a new way of doing things. The disruptive route isn't always an easy sell. And you might have to trial a number of business models before you find the right way to deliver a service that works well for your customers and also makes you a profit.
But the advantages are compelling. Says Gordon: "If you're first to market you will win goodwill with your customers, and once you've proven the concept works, the trust you have built will make it easier to sell other services to your customers.
"And because it's often large organisations who can integrate an innovative way of working, you have the opportunity to create a top-tier, prestige-name client base."
So, why not try being a bit naughty in 2011? Disruption could propel your business in previously unconsidered directions.
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