There are countless examples of disruptive innovation

Have you ever wondered whether the industry you choose to work in will exist as long as you need to work? The pandemic is currently creating disruption to many industries particularly retail and the leisure industries.  Many people are being forced into rethinking their career choices.  Using disruptive innovation to jumpstart your career has never been more relevant.

Consumer electronics and disruptive innovation

The year is 1979, you’ve graduated from college and begun your career at any number of the leading consumer electronic companies (Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, RCA, Kenwood, Denon, etc.)  Growth for all is exponential as consumers enthusiastically buy the home audio gear they need to listen to the music they love to hear. But things get even better.  1982 sees the introduction of home theatre; a concept that uses many of the same pieces of equipment included in home audio systems, but with a twist. Consumers can now enjoy movies in the home, played first on VCR’s soon followed by DVD players.

The business continues to grow, your career along with it. You’ve been promoted a number of times, your salary is growing much beyond what you ever thought possible. Life is good, your company and you are prospering.

But then, unnoticed by many, probably including you, things begin to change.

  • In 1991, MP3 is finalized as an industry format standard for digital music.
  • The late ’90s sees the introduction of the world’s first MP3 audio players.
  • In June 1999, Napster begins operations, facilitating online music sharing.
  • In 2001, Apple introduces the first generation iPod.

Making excuses

What does your company do about all this? For the most part, nothing. Business as usual prevails. Variations of previously successful products continue to be introduced and purchased by consumers as they had in past although at an increasingly diminished rate.

The reason sales begin a slow decline, you are told or may have assumed yourself, is due to “bad weather”, “changes in the exchange rate”, “the need for bigger marketing budgets”, “a shipper’s strike, etc.; anything but recognizing the occurrence of fundamental shifts in the market.

Ten years on and the outcome is clear. Massive layoffs and corporate downsizing such has never been seen before. The traditional, previously industry-leading companies, including the one you’ve worked for so long, are, at best, a fraction of their former selves, at worst, no longer in business, and among the casualties is what’s left of your career.

An industry by any other name

Understand, the “consumer electronics industry” did not go away, it simply morphed into something completely different from what it had been. New people with vastly different and new ideas formed new companies, and as a result, in a very short period of time, little of what was, including the people who began their careers in CE, remains today. So, too bad for those working in CE; that’s not you?  While about CE this is not limited to CE. You don’t have to look far to see countless examples of disruptive innovation (DI) and, as a result, no career is safe, yours included. You’ll be making a life-altering mistake to believe otherwise. In the current climate, you really need to future proof your career.

3 simple steps to future proof your career

What is happening?

Pay attention to the forces affecting your industry, your company, and ultimately you, which, by the way, are not only related to business but everything political, demographic, and cultural. Focus on your industry but not exclusively; remember most of the change in consumer electronics came from outside the industry, not from within.

What will happen?

Remember Newton’s 3rd law (For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.) What is happening will result in additional changes. In some cases with consequences far beyond the initial impact. Don’t see it? Consider the development of MP3 and its ultimate impact on all aspects of your life. That was about much more than simply music on your computer.

What do I do?

Once you understand what is happening, once you consider what will follow as a result, you can, as necessary, redirect your career plan (you do have a career plan don’t you?) as quickly and often as possible.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you will quit your job or even change industries. It only means you will be prepared to consciously, with much forethought and planning, do either or both should the need arise.

You won’t correctly foresee all you should nor formulate the optimum plan; too many changes too quickly for that to happen. But what you do see and understand ahead of most others will dramatically increase your career success.

William Matthies founded Coyote Insight in 2000 to help start-ups as well as established companies and brands plan for profitable growth.

In 1986 he founded what was to become the largest independent market research/database marketing company in the consumer electronics and high tech fields. By the time he sold The Verity Group in 1997, the company employed 400+ people at its California and Costa Rica offices.

Today he serves on corporate advisory boards lecturing frequently at industry events around the world on managing change, strategic planning, and customer relations.

William’s spare time is spent seeking out experiences that change his perspective, while at the same time having great fun. A few years ago, he visited Russia for a Mach 2.5 flight in a MiG 25 supersonic aircraft flying to 80,000 feet, the edge of space. Want details? Contact him, he’ll be happy to tell you about it!