Dealing With Disruption


By Sam Greengard

A few weeks ago, my four-year-old laptop went DOA and, after much deliberation, I decided to buy the new iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard. When the unit arrived and I began installing apps, it immediately struck me just how profoundly the world has changed during the last five years ... and how deeply all this disruption alters business.

It used to be that if you started a company selling radios or cameras, you could expect to be in that line of business for several decades. But now, as we tap and swipe our way through smartphones and tablets, it's obvious that we're entering a world with entirely different physics. I no longer need a camera, GPS unit, radio, portable music player, audio recorder, day planner or address book. Heck, in a few years, I won't need cash or credit cards.

These days, just about every imaginable function is embedded in software or connected hardware that's runs on a smartphone or tablet. Even medical devices, such as blood pressure and blood sugar monitors, which previously set you back hundreds of dollars, are part of mobile devices.

For consumers, it's the best of times. For established businesses, it can easily become the worst of times. Customers are fickle, and today's hot new product is tomorrow's electronic doorstop. Products such as the iPad create new market niches, but they also cannibalize entire market segments--including the need for a fancy laptop.

RIP Eastman Kodak, Borders Group and Blockbuster.

All of this is no news flash, of course. But there is a takeaway: Every company (and IT department) must learn to think like an entrepreneur--every hour, every day, every week and every month of the year. There's no shortcut and no escape hatch.

And it's only going to get worse. The thing that's most important to remember is that, in the end, disruption creates big fat opportunities. Ask Apple.