Being a disruptor in business is what makes you a household name for some. Whether you like their products, agree with their principles, or just plain admire them as a person, disruptors are what draw crowds. Names like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson can bring to mind products and processes which changed the industry. With so many entrepreneurs and business owners testing the waters of disruption, it begs the questions of whether or not it is actually a good or bad thing. Does the focus of ‘disruption’ take away from the focus of the actual product? We asked business owners and entrepreneurs for their opinion on whether disruption is a good or bad thing for entrepreneurs.
In business there are a lot of buzzwords that come and go. For David Silverstein of BMGI, the term disruptor might just be one of those words. To David, the term is different than the meaning for some. “Disruption itself is not a very well understood topic. It may be ‘popular’ but it is not common. Certainly it¹s good for an entrepreneur if she IS the disruptor, but it also means that many seemingly successful startups get displaced before ever achieving profitability. Disruption doesn¹t just simply make something new and successful. Even the iPhone didn¹t really rise to the level of true disruption. Disruption is almost always a simpler, lower-end solution, not necessarily a higher-priced, must better alternative. It¹s really the ratio of benefit to cost that gets dramatically shifted. Disruption usually means changing a paradigm and getting things done in entirely different ways. Disruption is an over-used buzz word applied to many more innovations than deserve it.”
Disruption in business is also hard. Companies must be willing to back up the title with hard work. So long as they can do that, disruption is amazing for entrepreneurs. Jessyca Frederick of Water Wise Now shares this sentiment, “Disruption is popular because it has the potential to “change the world” or create great monetary value. The reality is that most companies claiming to be disruptive are just barely building a better mousetrap. To truly be disruptive you have to change the expectations of customers (free shipping and returns), change the expectation of the industry (direct-to-consumer sales instead of tiered distribution channels), or wipe a product/service/industry off the map entirely (what Travelocity did to travel agencies). Disruption is hard. Hard-to-solve problems come with the at times overwhelming burden of finding and implementing solutions and convincing customers to try something new. But they also come with a competitive advantage—most people don't want to work hard enough to solve the hard problems It takes a certain dedication to be disruptive and this is good for some entrepreneurs—those who are passionate about the problems they are solving and thrive on challenge—and bad for lazy, insulated, or get-rich-quick entrepreneurs.”
The truth behind disruption is that is can cause entrepreneurs to take time in thinking about their products and companies. Tom Corson-Knowles of TCK Publishing points out that this is always a good thing. “Disruption is always good for everyone in general. It can be hard for specific entrepreneurs if it takes away business from you. Disruptive technologies and companies like Google are good for everyone. If you were an early competitor like Askjeeves that lost business because of Google, then you could say its “bad.” But that's not true for everyone. It was good for society, and bad for the entrepreneurs who lost to the competition. Disruptive technologies in general are always good for society. That's why they're called “disruptive” – because they eliminate inferior products and services from the marketplace. And that only happens because consumers think the new technology is better.”
No matter which view you have on disruption the idea of it won’t be leaving anytime soon. Changing how business is done and creating a product the entire world wants is something many entrepreneurs would love to have on their resume. Being a disruptive entrepreneur can have some amazing rewards and terrible consequences depending on how it is handled.