“You become what you disrupt.”
The Dave McClure / 500 Startups “#UNSEXY CONFERENCE” is breaking buzz sound barriers today. Many tweeps are retweeting a meme quipped during one of today’s sessions by Jesse Robbins, CEO of Opscode / O’Reilly Radar contributor / and Co-Chair of the Velocity Conference. The quote? “You Become What You Disrupt.”
Jesse Robbins originally advanced this theory in 2007. Back then, he used Skype to illustrate his point. Alas, the glory days of Skype are long over. Skype has had its share of problems and it only gets worse (it lacks context, it’s de facto illegal in many countries, and overwrought with bugs, crashes, patches, and fixes). But back then, Jesse upheld Skype as a shining star example and declared, “you become what you disrupt.”
Disruption is temporal. You don’t become what you disrupt. You become what you sustain. Disruption by no means equals sustainable success. You may successfully disrupt but fail to be successful. Disruption creates an opportunity to become something else *OR* flame out quickly. You are creating a space for evolution. And unless your company is prepared, poised and perfectly positioned for EVOLUTION — pursuing unmitigated disruption and revolution will merely accelerate your path to failure. Laurence Capron’s recent research proves what we already know instinctively: business survival depends on differentiated products and services, multifaceted growth strategies, and management leadership capabilities.
A few poignant stories:
On Friday, Jeffrey Phillips (@ovoinnovation) tweeted “As we say in Texas, the only things in the middle of the road are yellow lines and roadkill. Innovation isn’t for everyone.” He followed up his tweet with a blog post in which he declared that innovation is only about the edge and disruption. Balderdash, we thought. Only Jim Hightower (twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner) and his merry band of populists talk trash about the middle of the road and dead armadillos. Ever heard of the excluded middle law? The idea that “middle of the road” is bad is a false dilemma. Sometimes middle of the road options are better.
In January, Michael Mandal’s Progressive Policy Institute research study speculated that big corporations were more innovative than startups. The study suggested that big companies do better in global marketplaces, that they alone have the resources to find/hire the best talent, that they alone have the scale to address big problems. An online debate ensued about startup innovation.
Many folks — RE:INVENTION included — declared that startups can indeed be as innovative as corporations (if not more so). And pointed to numerous exceptionally innovative startups as examples.
Paul Singh, an esteemed partner at 500 startups, has a great blog. He tweets prolifically. We’re sure he’s a good guy (though we’ve never met him). Who doesn’t like someone who boldly declares, “I can rock your business” in his bio? Still….we’re troubled (tossing, turning, up all night taxed) by the following 85% theory proposed on Singh’s provocative website home page:
Hmm. Is 85% of EVERY business really the same? Just 15% unique? We can’t seem to make Singh’s math work. Let’s start from the false assumption that 100% of all companies are the same….
There’s an intellectual current wafting through the startup world these days. The idea that small and lean is sexier. That highly targeted marketing drives success. That you should find and appeal to a very select group of customers. That you should offer fewer products and less product functionality, not more. That understanding and serving a narrow market is simpler and easier. That you can’t go big without winning small first.
Startups need broader target audiences, big idea solutions, and a diversified portfolio of growth strategies — not narrower ones.
In the words of Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman: “Most people are going to try to convince you to do some small, stinky little niche. Don’t do it! If you go with a big idea, it gives you lots of room to move.”
Don’t think small. Act big.
Eight years have passed since we won “Honorable Mention – Best Small Business Blog” in the first annual MarketingSherpa Blog Awards. This week we’re back to blogging with fresh perspective. We plan to use this new blog to take a stand on “innovate or perish.” To answer naysayers who suggest that most companies lack the capacity to be innovative. Why? Well, because we believe that America is inherently innovative. That American business is innovative. That the world is innovative. And that with the right tools, process, discipline, commitment, and vision any company can be innovative. Yet 33% of all new businesses fail in the first six months. Eight out of ten tank in the first three years. And according to the Journal of Product Innovation Management, for every 7 new product ideas, 1.5 are launched, and only 1 succeeds.
Clearly there are some big hurdles to idea implementation and innovation. Avoiding premature idea strangulation (gasp!) starts with analyzing potential pitfalls.
Yes – smart folks have talked about some of these issues in isolation, but rarely if ever inclusively and if so inadequately. So, how does innovation get stymied? Why do good ideas fail? Here are 10 reasons (our inclusive checklist):
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