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PMG Digital Made for Humans

Minimizing Disruption & Becoming More Innovative

4 MINUTE READ | January 18, 2017

Minimizing Disruption & Becoming More Innovative

Innovations that lead to corporate disruption has happened many times before and is happening at an ever more frequent pace. Staying on top of changes is important for companies, individuals, and agencies supporting for their clients to take advantage of innovation and avoid being a victim of it.

Disruption Through History

If you worked for a company that transported goods by horse in the 19th century (you probably didn’t if you’re reading this), you were displaced by the invention of the train. If you worked in the telegraph business, phones may have ended that company.

The digital marketing industry has been a great example of this. Think how many brick and mortar retailers have gone out of business because of online sales (Borders, for example). Many newspapers could not keep up with transitioning to effective online content (such as the Chicago Tribune and Minneapolis Star which landed in bankruptcy), and especially the loss of classified ad revenue to Craigslist. Blockbuster is another company which didn’t plan for the online streaming revolution.

Meanwhile, Netflix planned from the start to move from DVDs by mail to online streaming even though the technology was years away. And Amazon was early to recognize that ebooks would be important and invested in the Kindle technology.

As an agency, part of our job is to help our clients think strategically about keeping customers satisfied in the face of such changes. For example, at a recent company meeting, we had a presentation that discussed the potential disruption that a company like Airbnb can cause to OTAs and hotel brands. Staying alert to our clients’ industries and sharing trends across industries as a company is a key to providing this kind of feedback.

Staying on Top of Innovation

Our entire industry is one that came out of the intersection of two disciplines – marketing and technology. The rare people that knew both were able to thrive early in this environment while traditional advertisers struggled. One story I recall is from a friend who convinced a large retailer that they needed to buy their trademark domain name before people knew what those were. He worked in the IT department, and went in with his stereotypical ponytail and had to convince a bunch of marketers that people would be buying their products on the internet one day. It took thinking about both areas to understand the need.

One way to not only be aware of potential disruptions but drive innovation is to promote cross-team collaboration. Random conversations with a person outside of your team may spark a completely new idea. Google, for example, splits up their cafeteria to encourage random interdisciplinary conversations.

Make time to intentionally discuss the future and trends. Think of all the disruption that could occur on a smaller scale in this industry alone:

  • How will AI lead to automation of certain marketing processes?

  • Will voice search change shopping behaviors?

  • What happens if regulations change the ability to gather certain user data (the EU cookie laws, for example).

Even with cross-team collaboration, that wouldn’t cover all the things happening outside of your industry. The company behind Cards Against Humanity built their office space to share with other companies to make sure they’d be exposed to different ideas. Stay curious about what is happening in the news that could be important:

  • How could the sharing economy like Uber and Airbnb impact your industry?

  • What currently manual tasks could be replaced by artificial intelligence?

  • How will the outside world such as clean energy advancements or advances in developing nations change the market?

  • What impact could newer digital technologies like Blockchain or the Internet of Things have?

It’s OK to have more than one thing you are interested in. You never know how your knowledge in a seemingly unrelated field will help you in the future.

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ConclusionLastly, you can’t predict the future. As this interview with journalist James Burke points out, there are simply too many variables that shape its course. No one foresaw that the space program would lead to the invention of the MRI. That means disruption can’t be completely avoided.  You can work to limit its impact though and stay ahead of the curve in many cases though by pushing innovation.


Posted by John Greer

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