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Creating the future through disruptive innovation

This article appears in the issue October 2014, [Vol 23 Issue 9]
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To varying degrees, each of the above industries has enjoyed a monopoly of sorts. For example, many believe that taxis and limos should continue to be regulated. When you get into a cab. you want to make sure you’re not going to find yourself thinking you’re on the set of an upcoming low-budget horror movie. Same goes for finding a place to stay or a medical doctor.

But in an age in which knowledge flows more freely and instantly, everyone will be continually rated, including the raters. The global knowledge economy is fast becoming a massive, self-organizing, self-correcting system.

What to do

If you look at these and other disruptive innovations from a KM perspective, you can begin to identify ways to create your own opportunities. Here are three things to look for.

  • Situations where a monopoly on information exists. The message is clear. Anybody who owns a monopoly on information is in danger of losing that monopoly. The new strategy is to come out of the shadows and open things up. The more transparency (think open source), the better the chance for continuous and rapid learning and improvement. The more opaqueness, the better the chance of ending up as disruption roadkill. The key question is: How much of your organization’s business model is built upon creating artificial scarcity by limiting access to information that people want?
  • Ways to take advantage of the element of surprise. History is replete with examples of small armies successfully defeating much larger opponents through the element of surprise. Look for places where you can catch the status quo sleeping on the job.
  • Ways to extract signals from noise. You don’t have to start a revolution. You can be just as successful if you know how to spot emerging trends early and go along for the ride. Just look at the many public cloud providers making healthy profits as their nascent industry continues to grow at a compound annual rate of 23.5 percent, according to IDC.

A key attribute of the enterprise of the future is it must keep reinventing itself. Take on the role of lead disrupter. You can start by organizing a small incubator/accelerator within your organization. Brainstorm and shake loose some new ideas (see kmworld.com/Articles/Column/The-Future-of-the-Future/An-uncommon-view-of-collaborative-competencies-92002.aspx). Or take something the disrupters are already doing and adapt it to your situation.

As we’ve seen with Uber, Airbnb and others, disruption at its core is very basic—taking something that has metastasized into an inefficient blob and releasing fresh oxygen into the ecosystem. Whether your preference is for a low-tech disrupter like an air mattress or a high-tech spaceship, or perhaps just a better, simpler way of doing something that has become jumbled up and overly complicated, now is the time to step up and help create a better future. Warp travel, anyone?

 

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