We sometimes look at innovation in the bigger picture of markets and industries. But innovation, and the disruption it brings, begins with the individual. We must embrace it, want it, and ultimately, live it. Because it is within our own pursuit of disrupting our individual industries and markets that we find true success.
A really insightful and engaging piece on the Harvard Business Review blog by Whitney Johnson:
If it feels scary and lonely, you’re probably on the right track
The term “disruptive innovation” has become an industry buzzword. We all want to start a disruptive company or invest in disruptive ventures, but in reality an innovation that takes place at the low-end of the market or where there is no market (yet) is just not that sexy. It’s a similar story when you contemplate disrupting yourself mid-career. There is the possible loss of stature and influence and the very practical loss of financial stability. Hence, the Innovator’s Dilemma: whether you innovate or not, you risk downward mobility.
Of course, it also matters how you define “success.” The Japanese term Datsusara (from Wikipedia) describes the act of giving up a salary job to embrace a passion (such as art, etc.):
Datsusara (脱サラ?) refers to the act of quitting work as a salaryman and finding a new occupation. The term only refers to those who quit their office job to find a more fulfilling line of work, and not those who were forced to search for a new job after being fired, or quit simply out of boredom. Becoming a stay-at-home dad also does not qualify for this category. Examples of this include becoming a SoHo worker, entrepreneur, web designer, farmer, fisherman, traditional artisan, writer, restaurant/store owner, franchiser, and many other occupations.
Datsusara is not an easy option for the salaryman. The new job is often a childhood dream or a momentary inspiration of some sort, and takes a huge amount of time and work to come to fruition. The main danger lies in taking up a profession without the proper knowledge and training; a salaryman seeking to become an organic farmer can unwittingly devastate his first crop because all of his knowledge is based on reading and studying rather than actual hands-on training.
Despite the numerous risks involved, the number of salarymen who quit their jobs has been on the rise since the 1990s. Many of these people only became salarymen because they were told to do so by their childhood environment, and quit after becoming discouraged by the nature of their work. Datsusara can also be seen as a rebound against the stress of schoolwork and university entrance exams, or against corporate hierarchy. Another factor is that improvements in living standards have made it so that one does not necessarily need a set income in order to survive.
The idea of disrupting ourselves is only partially about our success in business. It’s about defining who we are in life and what we want to be remembered by. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a career change will re-define your or make you more successful as a person.
So although the above talks about personal disruption, our need to disrupt our own lives can also provide us an example of how to disrupt the industries in which we live. The article below provides some great points on this:
From the article:
Consider the humble can of house paint. For years, cans of paint have been made of tin and opened the same way: pried open with a screwdriver. But then, Dutch Boy Paint came along and introduced the Twist & Pour, an all-plastic gallon container featuring an easy twist-off lid and a neat-pour spout, which reduces the spilling and dripping typically associated with traditional paint cans. A molded handle allows for a more controlled pour and easier carrying. Adam Chafe, Dutch Boy’s director of Marketing says, “Consumers told us the Twist & Pour paint container was a packaging innovation long overdue.” As this example shows, a satisfactory way of doing something (like opening a can of paint with a screwdriver) may be far from optimal.
So, instead of large pain points, you should spend your time looking for–and addressing–something much more subtle: small “tension points,” the things that aren’t big enough to be considered problems.
Tension points are a very interesting concept, even as we look to disrupt our own lives. Some examples of tension points include:
These quick, efficient-seeming solutions address only the most obvious symptoms of a problem, not the underlying problem itself. Workarounds can actually be dangerous because, when symptoms clear up, people lose any incentive they may have had to deal with the real issues. Over the long term, the problem gets worse and, eventually, someone will have to come up with another workaround.
People’s values play an important role in their motivations. What do they value? What’s important to them? What’s not? Tension is often present when a product, service, or experience is in conflict with the values people find desirable.
In his article for Wired magazine, “The Good-Enough Revolution,” Robert Capps outlines a change in consumer values that he calls the MP3 effect: We now favor flexibility over high fidelity (that is, MP3s over CDs), convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they’re actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as “high-quality.”
Look for high-priority and low-priority values. Has there been a change in what consumers’ value in the products and services they buy? Has that change revealed a gap between what consumers want and what’s actually available?
Generally, the more established people’s habits, the higher the inertia, meaning they’re less motivated to consider alternative choices. Many banking customers, for example, say that they dislike their bank and would be delighted to switch. But, the prospect of closing all of their accounts and reopening them somewhere else is so overwhelming that it’s easier to just stay where they are. Wherever customers feel trapped by inertia in a situation they find less than desirable is where you’ll find tension. Keep an eye out for situations in which customers act out of habit. Opportunities can be created to either break or leverage that inertia.
In October 2005, Bank of America identified a key point of inertia–people often round the amount of their financial transactions up to the next dollar. The result of leveraging that inertia is Keep the Change, a program in which the bank rounds up a debit transaction to the nearest dollar and transfers the difference into your savings account. Since its launch, over 700,000 have opened new checking accounts, and 1 million have set up new savings accounts.
Shoulds versus wants
People often struggle with the tension between wants, which are things they crave in the moment, and shoulds, which are the things they know are good for them in the long term. In their column for Fast Company, Dan and Chip Heath make the case that “People need help saving themselves from themselves, and that presents a business opportunity.” They reference the work of Katherine Milkman, a doctoral student at Harvard Business School. Milkman has studied the way customers wrestle with wants and shoulds, and she suggests bundling the two. For example, the Heaths write, “exercising is a should, so what if your gym offered to receive your magazine subscriptions? That way, if you wanted to read the new Vanity Fair (a want), you’d have to drop by the gym. Or, what if Blockbuster offered you a free tub of popcorn (a want) for every documentary (a should) that you rented?” Look for the tension that lies between wants and shoulds. Do your customers need help “saving themselves from themselves”?
And of course, you can buy the book on Disruption: http://www.amazon.com/Disrupt-Think-Unthinkable-Transformation-Business/dp/0137025149
Image courtesy of www.center4pm.com.
Originally posted 2011-08-22 16:57:02.