Let’s talk about disruption.

Newspapers and magazines always felt that when the Internet came around they could continue to survive on print editions. Wrong. Journalism lives, but the printed word on paper continues to decline as more and more periodicals move to an online-only approach. Trickle down? I wouldn’t be buying stock in press, ink and newsprint companies.

Local movie rental companies felt that people would still want to go to the store, even when online streaming and movies by mail started out. In April, Washington D.C.’s last video store closed their doors.

We’re always going to want to burn our pictures and music to CDs. The recordable media industry is going to grow. How many different MP3 players and cloud photo systems are available now?

Nothing can beat going to the local book store to buy the latest hardcover. eBooks now make up 30% of all book sales. The number of independent book stores has halved in the last 20 years, and less than 10% of all books sold are done through the remaining ones.  Barnes & Noble is closing 20 stores a year.

The US has the best manufacturing capabilities in the world so there’s no worry about a decline in job availability. Wrong. (Although we are starting to see the return of some jobs to the US due to the rising “cost of doing business” in other countries).

Travel agents. Insurance agents. Bank tellers. Taxi drivers. Photo finishers. News stands. In the last 20 years there has been mass disruption of individual jobs and entire industries as people move towards wanting self-service and the creation of goods is moved offshore.

Disruption (generally) kills industries, bankrupts companies and displaces jobs. Hence its name. Disruption causes widespread economic ripples and shifts in the way businesses make money.

So What’s My Point?

You need to recognize disruption and embrace it. Maybe you just dabble in it at first to see how things go, or maybe you jump into the deep end and find out whether you’ll sink or swim. But you need to make sure to spend some time every month, every week, every day, thinking about what could disrupt your business or job.

And What Do I Do About Disruption??

Employees need to understand that some new approach may come along at some point and make their jobs obsolete. Self service. Robotics. Aggregation sites.

Both corporations and employees need to leave their comfort zone and think about what’s next. What can disrupt and displace their company or their job? 

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Today, “trends” come faster and faster. Who has time to figure out which ones will stick and which ones are a fad. And even when there is disruption, is it before its time? Should you embrace it? How do you know if it will affect your industry or a different one? It’s generally good to be on the leading edge of disruption if it is a long term trend, but it’s really bad to be there when it’s short term.

I have some answers, but I definitely don’t have all of them. I’m wondering what your thoughts are. Please comment below, and share this post so we can get more opinions.

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Chris is Managing Partner of Fair Winds Strategies. Prior to this he was the Chief Innovation Officer at Internet Marketing Ninjas where he managed M&A activity, legal work, and also focused on the use of technology and other solutions to lead innovation and growth. Before IMN, Chris led the sale of his $10mil information technology company, twice an Inc500 fastest growing company in the US, to an investment banking firm in NYC. He has a strong passion for sailing, and had the opportunity to spend two years travelling from Lake Champlain to the southern Bahamas and back with his family.
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