November 6, 2013
Apple just announced that it has cumulatively sold more than 170 million iPads since the product first debuted in 2010. For context, if iPad Nation were a country, it would be roughly tied at No. 7 with Nigeria, set to eclipse Pakistan next quarter and Brazil the quarter after that.
This boldfaced proof of digital disruption’s power to upset markets has left companies in every industry struggling to keep up with a consumer population that is happily disrupting itself. For someone who spends his days researching digital disruption and modeling its effects, on the one hand, this is good news: Everybody believes in digital disruption. On the other hand, it raises a very real problem: Nobody knows what to do about it.
Today when I meet with companies bent on becoming digital disruptors, one of their first questions is no longer, "How much time do we have until we have to respond?" but rather, "How do we get started right now?"
There is no single answer to this. Some companies are best served by locating their disruption initiative outside the company in an innovation lab where it can quickly generate disruptive momentum. Others can get a boost of internal support by building an internal innovation team and drawing resources from a supportive corporate structure. And some companies can launch multiple focused disruptive initiatives across many different groups in the organization, each one tasked with a specific disruptive goal, as long as the culture of the company is ready to incubate the efforts.
In other words, the answer to, "How do we get started right now?" depends on what your specific obstacles are. To guide companies through the tricky question of which path to follow — external lab, internal team, or multiple focused disruptive efforts — in our recent report for Forrester clients, "Organizing For Digital Disruption: Where And How To Ignite The Disruption You Need" (subscription required), we have identified three types of obstacles that can get in your way: structural barriers, cultural inhibitors, and procedural hurdles. Your organization will face its own unique combination of these three types of obstacles, and depending on what you have to overcome, you will be better off pursuing one disruptive path over another. For example, companies with strong structural support for disruption but poor cultural support will want to build an independent digital disruption team inside the organization so that it can benefit from the structural support, while assigning the team relative autonomy to help it escape the flagging culture.
Knowing your weaknesses is the first step to overcoming them and leading you to the disruptive outcomes you know you need to achieve. We want to help. Diagnose your particular challenges with the help of an online tool that assesses Organizing For Digital Disruption. There you can see which challenges you face and learn what to do about them. Happy disrupting!
James McQuivey, Ph.D., is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. His recent book, Digital Disruption, teaches executives how to adopt the mindset and to imitate the behaviors of a digital disruptor. Buy the book at Amazon.com. To learn more about digital disruption and how Forrester can help you, visit Digital Disruption and Google+.