How to make space for disruptive innovation Disruptive innovations can come up out of nowhere and pass us in a flash. But there is no rule that says disruptive innovation has to come from the outside.

business strategy

I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that innovation is important. In fact, we take it for granted that each year, electronic gadgets get smaller and more powerful, cars become more comfortable and efficient, and business software becomes smarter and more user-friendly.

However, when it comes to our own organizations, we often forget that there are two types of innovation: regular and disruptive.

The first is the innovation that keeps the lights on in your organization – the incremental improvements to your products and services that ensure that your customers don’t defect in troves to your competitors. This is the type of innovation that helps you sustain business and one for which we allocate a considerable share of organizational processes, budgets, and resources. It tends to move at a steady pace.

But there is also a second type of innovation. One that looks not only forward, but also sideways and even behind. This is innovation that spots emergent trends and disruptive business models so your organization does not get blindsided. As it is disruptive, it can move at lightning speed.

Case in point: Blockbuster

You might recall this U.S.-based provider of home video rental services. In the 1990s and 2000s, Blockbuster was a household name.

Through the years, the organization had successfully innovated its core business, moving from renting VHS tapes and VCRs to DVDs, Blu-Rays, and even video games. In the early 2000s, Blockbuster became a global leader – the organization had over 9,000 stores worldwide and employed more than 80,000 people. In fact, at this point in time, Blockbuster opened a new store every 17 hours.

But all this changed before the end of the same decade, and in 2010 Blockbuster had to file for bankruptcy protection. Much of this downfall was precipitated by a young startup called Netflix.

Netflix did not beat Blockbuster at its own game. It changed the game.

Netflix sent DVDs by mail, had no retail stores, and did not charge late fees. Blockbuster was very successful and had a lot of very smart people working for it, but was focused on innovating within the constraints of its core business model and failed to recognize the disruptive power of the Netflix model.

By the time Netflix added streaming services to its lineup, it was too late for Blockbuster to catch up.

Blockbuster did a lot of things right. It served customers, grew the business, and even made it into a successful franchise. But ultimately, a disruptive force that came from outside of its innovation strategy is what brought it all down.

Disruptive innovation

The simple lesson here is that it is important to make space in your organization for disruptive innovation. Too often, we dedicate all of our attention to beating our direct competitors and forget to keep an eye out for things that can shake up the entire playing field. Like organizations that are born digital, utilize the cloud instead of on-premises architecture, and quickly become forces in their markets.

Disruptive innovations can come up out of nowhere and pass us in a flash. But there is no rule that says disruptive innovation has to come from the outside. There is no rule that says Netflix could not have been a home-grown department within Blockbuster. Many organizations have successfully disrupted and re-invented themselves time and time again, proving that it is possible to remain a leader and be an innovator at the same time.

But it takes commitment.

It requires setting aside budget and bandwidth to pursue disruptive and emergent innovation. And to not only come up with ideas, but also to try them, fail, and try again and again. It requires your most precious resource – the time of your employees; the people who know your business and your customers better than anyone else.

And there is only one way to carve meaningful time out of their busy workdays so they can focus on your organization’s next big things. To do so, you must equip them to work smarter. You must give them tools to make their jobs more efficient and more engaging, so they still have the time and energy left in the workday to be creative and innovative.

Tools that free valuable time

There are many ways to do this well within your organization. Here are just a few technologies and resources that can help along the way:

There are many other technologies and solutions that can help, depending on your organization and industry, but the goal is the same: to make your business run better today while freeing up some of your employees’ time to focus on tomorrow.

You need a disruptive innovation strategy

We’re not just armchair strategists at Hyland – we know innovation. We’ve been in the content services industry – formerly enterprise content management – for over three decades now. In high-tech years, this makes it a very mature industry. But that does not mean that we have stopped pushing the envelope.

In fact, we invest 100 percent of our R&D budget on furthering our process and content management technology. And this does not mean just incrementally improving our existing products. It also means proactively adding new technologies and new paradigms to our offerings.

One example is the Hyland Cloud. We launched the Hyland Cloud more than 15 years ago, before many of our customers were asking to move to the cloud. Over the years, we saw more and more customers take advantage of this offering, and demand skyrocketed during 2020.

While we could not have predicted the global pandemic, we were grateful that, thanks to our innovation strategy, we were prepared and had this option available to our customers when they needed it the most. We would not have been able to do this had we not started down this path all those years ago.

More recently, our investments in technologies like low code, robotic process automation, Blockchain, and open source have all resulted from Hyland following our vision of continued innovation both within our core capabilities and emerging technologies that many of our customers may not yet be considering.

So, get excited about innovation! Make space for it, cultivate it, and it will happen. It’s all about your organization’s future.

And the possibilities are endless.

Dennis Chepurnov

Dennis Chepurnov

Dennis is an enterprise technology evangelist with over 15 years of experience in helping organizations improve business processes through better information management. In his current role as the Principal of... read more about: Dennis Chepurnov

1 Response

  1. Betty Dunagan Betty Dunagan says:

    Nice article Dennis!

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