Cumulative disruptive innovation or death by a million paper cuts


It is no secret: The pace of disruptive innovation will only continue to accelerate.

I believe it is safe to say no company will be able to conquer ALL of the various disruptive innovations that have impacted and will continue to impact its business model. So the need to conquer disruptive innovation in today’s fast-paced business climate might be more critical today than ever before — simply because of the speed at which we see this disruption take place.

In a nutshell, the trick is to pick your battles wisely when picking which innovation poison to swallow.

Historically speaking, it wasn’t that long ago the Internet — certainly a disruptive innovation — was introduced. But the cumulative disruptive innovations that have spun off the Internet have been profound and have impacted our industry over and over again — some for the better and some for the worse.

From hardware improvements such as desktop computers to laptops and then cell phones, we have seen devices become smaller and more powerful. We have seen the Internet spin off multiple challenges to the traditional newsmedia model, with many inflicting paper cut-type wounds to our traditional model. Some in the industry might say we are undergoing death by a million paper cuts.

It is this author’s opinion that out of all the paper cuts we have received to date, the deepest and most painful is still very young — that of tablet technology. While the previous paper cuts have mainly impacted the financial or advertiser-based business model, this latest disruptive innovation goes straight at the core reader experience. In the tablet, for the first time, we have a disruptive innovation that will bleed our core and loyal readers away from the printed word and into the world of technology and mobile information.

With all of the previous disruptions to our industry, the printed product, while struggling, was still able to offer that comfortable sitting or leaning-back experience that technology just wasn’t able to provide. After all, who wants to lean forward or squint to read the words on their cell phone, desktop, or even their laptop for prolonged periods of time? For the first time, we have a disruptive innovation that provides what the printed product does, in terms of the reader experience. Only this new disruption, through the world of apps, provides much more flexibility and offerings than the printed product can offer.

Could this ultimately spell the death of the printed newspaper? I believe the answer is both yes and no. For those who understand the impact of the train coming down the tracks, it will create new frontiers of vast opportunity that they will be able to synergise into their business model. For those failing to adapt and embrace this latest disruptive technology, it will be yet another paper cut. But, unlike the previous cuts, this one has the potential to become infected and cause more damage than all the previous paper cuts we have experienced.

This is no longer the industry for the faint of heart! Now is NOT the time to rest and catch our breath; the competitors are nipping at the heels of the traditional model faster and more aggressively than ever before.

Now is the time to jump headfirst into the innovation world in which we live. Yes, we must calculate our dives to ensure the water is deep enough, but we must dive. Jumping in headfirst will immerse us in the world of innovation, forcing us to sink or swim. Our industry has proven we can swim with the best of them; it’s time to jump and swim, not wade in and doggy-paddle, or we risk drowning in our own inaction in the swift currents of the business world we are forced to navigate through.

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