In recent years, advancements in digital technology, concerns about the environment, and globalisation have triggered periods of rapid and disruptive change in a host of industries. Rapid development is a good thing in general, but it also poses major challenges for businesses of all sizes. Businesses who can’t adapt to meet changing expectations, and who don’t find a way to innovatively compete, don’t survive long.

Business costs of internal focus - 4 survival tips for a disruptive business environment

Of course, this instability also marks an opportunity. The engine that drives this rapid progress is the hope of making that next big leap and setting your own business up as the next big industry leader. Surviving and thriving in this environment is less about maximising profits, and more about being adaptable, and maximising your innovative potential. Here are our tips for surviving disruption in your industry.

1. Don’t get caught unawares

Businesses that work in evolving industries need to constantly seek out and evaluate new innovations that are being developed or adopted by competitors. When a competitor comes out with a new innovation, you need to be aware of its disruptive potential, and be able to offer a response.

Of course, you won’t be able to track every new development, since most businesses will work to keep any new ideas hidden until they’re ready to bring them to market. This is inevitable, but it only makes it all the more important to keep your ear to the ground. Keep an eye on what problems competitors are working to solve, and determine whether you believe it would be wise to pursue a similar course, or if it can be safely ignored.

2. Sift for growth opportunities

Reactively dealing with change in your industry can help keep you afloat, but it’s only a temporary solution. It’s not enough to match your competitors as they are, you’ll also need to figure out how to move your industry forward to surpass them. That means innovating and finding solutions to problems that competitors aren’t even aware exist, or that they don’t believe can be solved.

By keeping a close eye on industry-related developments, you’re also gathering the tools you need to become a disruptor yourself. As technology improves and advances are made by competitors, your own previously discarded ideas might become viable. To make sure that you don’t miss a great opportunity, it pays to periodically go through and re-evaluate ideas that you may have discarded in the past.

3. Don’t overcommit

While it’s important to think about the changes occuring in your industry, you’ll need to be relatively conservative in your approach to pursuing new ideas. Making product and process changes is time and resource-intensive. What’s worse, some may actually damage your brand if they’re poorly received by consumers. Trying to frenetically adapt to every trend can sink your business even more quickly than doing nothing.

Instead, tread carefully and test new ideas thoroughly before committing to changes, whether they’re your own, or adopted from other businesses. By developing more deliberately you’ll be able to flesh your ideas out more fully and offer a higher quality product in the long run. Even then, though, businesses need to work to remain adaptable. Sinking a lot of capital into realising a particular idea can backfire spectacularly if your industry progresses too quickly and renders your new and improved product obsolete a few months later.

4. Control your growth

When we talk about surviving disruption, we generally refer to businesses trying to keep up with a disruptor. Every entrepreneur dreams of disrupting their industry and rapidly ballooning to prominence. However, that rarely ends well for businesses who don’t go out of their way to grow in a controlled manner. Very rapid growth can destabilise your business’ structure, your company culture, and ultimately the quality of your products or services. It forces inadequately trained workers to assume responsibilities that they aren’t ready for, such as training other new hires. This compounds the problem, and can quickly destabilise a previously smooth operation.

As you build your business, you’ll need to develop a clear growth plan, and ramp up slowly to allow new employees to assimilate into the organisation before growing further. This way, new hires always walk into a well-functioning and unified operation with an established culture.

Disruptive events and rapidly evolving industries pose enormous risks as well as opportunities. As established industry leaders scramble to adjust to changing times, and smaller businesses rise to take their place, new opportunities open up. Instability is risky, but it’s also the perfect environment for growth. By internalising these ideas, you can ensure that you and your business won’t just make it through the quarter, you may well take over your industry.

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