Disrupters are changes in technology, process or knowledge that fundamentally change the nature of an industry. The iPhone is a good example of a disruptive technology. The use of "big data" is very much a disrupter in the knowledge realm and has far reaching implications for every industry sector. To a lesser degree changes in approaches to process improvement like LEAN or Operational Excellence or Behavioural Based Process Improvement are also disrupters.
Why Are Disrupters Important?
Having established what a disrupter is the next question is why is this important? Ask PALM or perhaps Blackberry. Ask Atari or Commodore. These are all examples of companies that have suffered as a result of not recognizing disrupters and for not fostering a disruptive technology drive of there own. Disrupters change industry and companies within that industry that do not recognize the disruption early enough to adapt, disappear. For a current example, many feel that Apple is now struggling with staying out front with regard to introducing the next major disrupter.
It is the nature of a disrupter to come from a place of obscurity and move to a place of dominance in relatively short order. Current companies are now trying to incubate disruptive technology, processes or knowledge as a means of staying ahead of the competition. This is where operational excellence comes in. If you can create an environment where every member of the organization is invested in looking for improvements, savings or better client experience you run a better chance of incubating a disrupter.
Everyone Can Play
One company took the approach that those closest to the action are best able to identify the opportunities so created a culture that encouraged input from front line workers. In one instance a worker shared some information regarding how to get more production from a well with what was a very simple approach. The net result was that for the next year rather than having a field with declining production it actually swung to an up curve and increased production. It added a million dollars a month to the bottom line for that field and extended its lifespan considerably.
Do You Incubate Disrupters?
You may say that that wasn't really a major disrupter and you would be right. Remember the grand daddy of the iPhone was the iPod. Small disrupters lead to bigger disrupters which in turn change entire industries. The point is if your don't foster operational excellence and start the process of incubating for these things to happen you may well wind up in the same place as PALM or Commodore. The next big disruptive breakthrough could be residing on your team. Performance Leadership - Think About It!