It’s been an enlightening morning at the World Innovation Forum in New York, listening to Harvard’s Clayton Christensen talk about his theory of “disruption.” As a small business owner, I’m interested in how it applies to me and people like me. Here’s how I think it can work:
- Make products or provide services that are simple to use/apply and affordable. Easier said than done, but small business has flexibility big business lacks.
- Don’t use lessons learned at Harvard Business School (or any other Business School) to succeed. They don’t work. Many successful entrepreneurs don’t have this type of formal training. So they did not “unlearn” the conventional wisdom.
- The lower you start, the more upside you have.
- Small companies beat big ones through “disruption,” doing things differently, not waiting for proof, taking risks. Again, goes to flexibility.
- Trajectory of tech improvements almost always outshoots customers’ ability to utilize them. I say you can never catch up to the latest technology developments. They will always be just out of reach for EVERYONE. Embrace the ones that are good enough. Keep learning.
- Small players look up at big ones and see a lot of money to be made. Big companies look down at small ones and see no profits. Guess who wins?
- Small business, solo- and micro-preneurs new “disruptors.” They are ahead of the marketing game in every way with billions changing hands and businesses growing. But traditional businesses ignore them. (See #6.)
And, a notable communication moment: Professor Christensen told the audience at the beginning he’d had a stroke and had to relearn to speak, he’d occasionally have difficulty finding a word and would the audience help, if they knew the word he was trying to find. This endeared the audience to him and had them lean in to listen (and help) even more. Brilliant.
So, here’s another great “disruptive” business practice: Let people in a bit. Let them see the real you. Show humility. It’s the principle of “tearing down the walls” to your business–and you.
Can’t beat this type of advice and authenticity.
Ruth Sherman Associates LLC / High-Stakes
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