Companies and industries were getting disrupted a long time ago.
around horse powered transport.
The invention of the internal combustion engine and the automobile disrupted all these industries. The internal combustion engine was, a discontinuous development However, once the engine was invented, it’s remarkable that carriage makers didn’t think of cars – Opel did initially partner with a French company called Darracq that was a carriage maker, there were some other exceptions but by and large today’s car companies did not evolve from carriage makers.
Let’s jump to our beloved 21st century and the example of Uber which also disrupted an aspect of transportation. Again, there were enough existing players – taxi companies, car manufacturers and car rental companies – who could either have done this first or seen Uber, Lyft and the other startups as an opportunity and invested in them or worked with them in some way. (Having said that I have some doubt whether Uber and it’s ilk have really changed the fundamental economics of the transport business – which means they’ll never manage to make a profit, eventually will all disappear and leave the field to the old players who can then pick and choose aspects of the model to apply).
Obviously, there’s a balance – if management spends all its time trying to think about ways to disrupt its business then there won’t be a business to disrupt – but the point is that companies need to find sensible ways of testing out every possible disruptive idea and when they find one that works, make sure they do something with it. Don’t assume that new ideas and startups are inimical to your business – if you think about your core business differently, they become opportunities to leverage change and lead the industry.