What is Disruptive Technology?
Changing the game. As an entrepreneur – isn’t that your goal? Not all innovations are disruptive, even if they’re breakthroughs. Disruptive technologies don’t just change the game – they create an entirely new one.
Disruptive technologies often start as products that can’t compete with existing products. Disruptive innovation is the transformation of a complicated, expensive product into something more accessible and affordable to an expanded potential market. The real disruption begins as these nonperforming products transform into something better, cheaper, and more readily available.
Here’s how embracing disruptive technology has already changed the world – and a few ways it’s shaping the future:
The Evolution of Disruptive Technology
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen introduced the idea of disruptive technologies in 1995. It’s now a common term in the business space.
Christensen outlined three characteristics of a successful disruptive innovation: enabling technology, an innovative business model, and a coherent value network.
By this definition, it’s easy to see how the automobile, television, and even electricity service were all disruptive technologies at one point. Today, disruptive technologies have evolved to include things like 3D printing, automation, and VR. We’ve already begun to see how these innovations are disrupting industries.
Agility is a major factor. As disruptive tech has evolved, one thing has remained consistent: startups are the ones who create them. Startups are inherently creative, flexible, and innovative. They look for entirely new ways of doing something. Established companies focus on incrementally improving what they already do.
Why You Need to Embrace Disruptive Technologies Now
Disruption happens, ready or not. Disruptors start out as smaller companies with fewer resources but they move upstream, devouring overlooked market segments as they go. Companies that ignore the encroachment of disruptive technologies risk failing faster than ever. Innovate or die, as they say.
Embracing disruptive tech—better yet, thinking like a disruptor—will help you stay competitive in today’s market. Consider where you can invest in new revenue streams that may help curb potential competitors and innovations that can sustain your business.
Adopting disruptive technology comes with clear advantages. For startups, it’s the potential to outperform established incumbents. For established businesses, it creates new opportunities to transition existing customers to the new technology while capturing new buyers and or market segments. No matter who introduces the disruptive innovation, both consumers and businesses benefit from the improved technology.
Disruptive Technology Examples
What disruptive technologies should we expect to see take off in 2023 and beyond? Here’s what I have my eye on:
3D printing has been embraced by the medical and aeronautical fields to create 3D objects. If companies can leverage 3D printing to bring their creation processes in-house, it could disrupt manufacturing as we know it.
5G and Improved Connectivity
5G is here and now, giving internet users better streaming quality and faster speeds than ever before while strengthening security. The availability of 5G will make remote work possible for even more people. As the mobile networking field continues to grow, there are countless ways this innovation could change the way we connect around the world.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
AI has already permeated our lives, be it through AI photo generators, voice assistants, chatbots, or robot financial advisors. We’ve only uncovered the tip of the iceberg of applications for AI. It has potential in nearly every industry, from revolutionizing healthcare data to personalized shopping. We could see it grow into a $150 trillion industry in a few years.
Automation and Robotics
Robotics and automation are well-established, but there’s still so much more to come. Robotic manufacturing, self-driving cars and trucks, and drones are just the beginning. As robotics become more sophisticated, we’ll see it seep into almost all sectors, finding a unique application in each. Healthcare looks especially promising in light of COVID-19. Robots can’t spread infection or get sick, and drones can manage contactless deliveries.
While many forecast a great attrition in the labor force as robots replace workers, it won’t be so bleak. We’ll need skilled workers to program and maintain new automated or robotic systems. In many cases, human workers will upskill and work together with automation and robotic technologies to create new efficiencies.
Cyber Security Advances
As the threat of cyber criminals has grown, so have the advances in cyber security. Cyber security experts are using AI and machine learning innovations to create more airtight firewalls and more sensitive intrusion detection tools. Cybercriminals will feel the brunt of the impact of this disruptive technology before we do.
Edge computing has disrupted IT in a big way, giving computers an automated solution to essentially bring the cloud closer to them for better bandwidth, increased security, and lower network latency. Edge computing will disrupt larger established cloud providers and begin to shift power to start-ups and companies that were early adopters.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Together, virtual and augmented reality are known as extended reality (XR). We’ve seen these technologies used for recreation in past years, but they have the potential to revolutionize established medical and education systems. Using VR, medical professionals can conduct exams and give diagnoses without being in the same room. For education, XR can ensure equitable learning. If students need to learn at home, or overcrowded classrooms pose an issue, XR would allow them to participate from anywhere.
Headless technology allows eCommerce sites to store and deliver content without a front-end interface. Telling your Alexa to add toilet paper to your cart, that’s headless tech. Not only is it convenient, but it makes ecommerce shopping more attractive to people normally turned off by its sometimes time-consuming, tedious process. It’s an exciting and cost-effective way for eCommerce players to attract and retain new customers. I think it could turn the current eCommerce model on its head. Don’t be one of the companies that get left behind.
The Rise of “As-a-Service” Computing
The cloud solution delivery system is incredibly convenient and nothing new. We see software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) options all around, but more are on the way. “As a service” solutions are reliable, affordable, and attractive. They’ll soon begin to outnumber older computing methods, seeping into every corner of the service economy.
The Work-From-Home Revolution
Was the 2020 WFH revolution the beginning of the end of the traditional office space? It could be. The pandemic’s own disruptive forces created this massive shift, and businesses quickly began working overtime to find creative solutions that support WFH and hybrid work capabilities. The flexible WFH model slashes infrastructure costs for employers. It also opens the hiring pool to anyone with network connectivity rather than limiting it by geographic area so employers can hire the very best talent, not just what’s nearby. This new way of working is here to stay.
How Tech Startups are Making Products that are Breaking Boundaries And Shaping the Future
If you want to learn what disruptive technologies are coming next, don’t look at mainstream, established companies. Look at the little guys on the fringes, the small fish in big ponds. They’re the innovators of the tech adoption lifecycle.
It’s these smaller startups that have flexibility, adaptability, and full control over their work. They don’t have to get approvals from a CFO or convince stakeholders of the potential of their idea. They’re nimble and willing to take bigger risks because they have so much more to gain.
Tech startups using disruptive innovation to:
- Automate manual processes, making them more efficient
- Create new products and services
- Build new business models
- Reach new markets and customers
- Make customer service more responsive
- Build better customer relationships
- Engage customers more in the experience
- Make operations more efficient and sustainable
One example of how tech startups are creating and implementing these disruptive technologies is Netflix. Remember, they started as a DVD-by-mail subscription model. In order to create the ubiquitous on-demand, online streaming media service we all know today, Netflix had to destroy the very business model that allowed it to find success in the first place. It’s this kind of bold adoption that allowed it to become the world’s largest streaming platform.
Out of the Comfort Zone and Into New Territory
Good things come to those who can adapt, but better things come to those who disrupt. Startups have the least to lose and everything to gain, making them prime movers and shakers. If you’re a founder, try to key into what technological innovations could make something better, cheaper, or more accessible. Find flaws in what already exists and markets that are yet untapped. Don’t be afraid to be bold with your ideas. They could be the next world-changing disruptions, and I want to know about them. Reach out to me if you’re working on something revolutionary. Enjoy the ride.