“Disruptive innovation” is possibly the business buzz-term of the decade, with entrepreneurs getting mountains of praise when they create new platforms for everyday tasks and services. The service a company provides doesn’t necessarily need to be disruptive or innovative to earn the title — the focus is on the way in which it is provided and the structures therein.
Below are some examples of current notable business innovators so you can see how disruptive innovation is defined and get tips on how to emulate it in your own business.
Jessica Matthews, the founder of Uncharted Power, started off promoting how play could be used to inspire social invention. After working on a Harvard project to engineer a soccer ball that creates energy, she realized that play and motion could be used to address larger social issues. Uncharted Power develops technology to make kinetic energy a sustainable, reliable source of energy in developing smart communities, mainly in Africa.
Matthews connected dots that weren’t being widely associated to approach a timely and important topic in a new way. In a time where people and industries are ignoring the potential of solar energy, it’s vital that all possibilities for renewable energy are explored, researched, and pursued appropriately. Significant inroads can be made, as we can see with Tesla’s recent success story in Puerto Rico.
Disruptive Tip: Every business meets a need or solves a problem. Think about the problem you’re setting out to solve is usually addressed. Is there a mindset from your other interests or experiences that might be transformative when applied in a new context.
Open Philanthropy Project
The Open Philanthropy Project stemmed from several organizations focused on donating to worthy causes in the most effective way possible. They utilize research and data analytics to make grant recommendations. Their goal is to share their findings in ways that maximize the ability for others to build on their work.
This is a great example of the impact data analytics can have when utilized strategically. Instead of going a typical corporate route and trying to patent methods and protect their information, Open Philanthropy Project wants to spread their findings far and wide to have greater impact. They mostly recommend non-profits, but are not averse to supporting for-profit entities with a positive impact on communities and important issues.
Disruptive Tip: People often think of technology as its own world, but it can be utilized to increase efficiency in most fields. How can you use technology to streamline your processes and have greater impact?
The founders of Backstage Capital noticed that most venture capital deals go to one particular demographic: white men. They knew this was an opportunity to cater to an audience that was being underserved. They not only provide funding, but also mentoring to help the businesses they support succeed and build even more disruptive businesses.
Embracing diversity not only brings your service to a new audience with a new perspective, but it also generates buzz and goodwill toward your business. By focusing on an under-targeted audience, you’re subverting the competition while growing a new customer base.
Disruptive Tip: Are there people who would benefit from your services who are outside the stereotypical target audience in your field? Focus on how you can reach them.
A Note On Being Genuine
When you’re working to reach a particular audience or disrupt a specific field, it can be easy to become disingenuine in your motives. The tech sector in Silicon Valley gets a lot of criticism for “disruptive” ideas that miss the mark. When the idea for “Bodega” was announced by a former Google employee, social media was full of critiques and quips about how this was out of touch.
This stems from the fact that the word “bodega” has a community-based connotation, and taking the small business aspect out of the convenience shopping experience failed to encompass that. People saw this as an attempt to replace community convenience stores without offering a new option for people whose livelihoods relied on it. This is the crux of disruption that leads to gentrification rather than progressive steps forward.
You can make sure that you’re not missing the mark by asking if your idea fills the same needs as traditional solutions in your market. Does it solve existing problems? Does it cause new ones? Analyzing the effect of your entrepreneurial pursuits will result in a more well-thought out, intentional business model. It will also allow you to craft thoughtful answers to challenges and questions people may have about your ideas.
These are just a few examples of today’s disruptive innovators. Share the stories of your most inspirational entrepreneurs in the comments!