We want the work that we do to mean something. In order for our work to have meaning, we have to really make products or services that add value and change people’s lives for the better, that do good in the world. That’s the vision of the future that we strive for. Hopefully, the work we do, if it’s good enough, will make a reverberating impression on society that lets us be remembered in history, such as Tesla, Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks, and others.
What do these people all have in common? They’re not conformists. They all questioned the status quo, challenged society and how we viewed the world. They were ridiculed, teased, threatened for being different. But guess what? They still had courage, they still had resilience and creativity to accomplish what they meant to do. In other words, they’re disruptors.
In order for us to do successful work for the places we work for, we must be disrupting the industry. The way to successfully do that is to find a niche and dominate that market—think small at first. Facebook though small when they first released their product to fellow college students at Harvard.
Another example of an industry disruptor is Uber. They looked at the taxi industry and saw that they could expand on that by getting regular folks to be drivers and people to use the service. Now, taxi and limo services are struggling because of Uber’s success. Uber provided a way for people struggling to make ends meet to conveniently make extra income, at their convenience. And the people who use Uber don’t have to pay expensive fees to get the same convenience and service as a taxi. There’s also transparency with the uber app.
In Peter Theil’s Zero to One book, he lists seven things that a company must have in order to be successful:
- Technology of integration
Technology of integration
Think about where you work. Is it easy for other companies to integrate your product or service into their systems? Telsa was the master at this. They created an electric engine that Toyota is using in their cars.
When thinking about your product or service, make sure that the timing is right in society. Many green tech companies sprung up in 2010ish due to government investment, with no real plan for making success. Most of these flopped in the tech bubble pop of 2012 because the timing was wrong. The first reason is that the technology for solar wasn’t ready, it was still too expensive to make the solar cells versus Chinese ones and they weren’t as effective as an energy source. Second was that fracking took off, which lowered natural gas prices and made America oil independent. Similar things happened with the tech bubble of the 90s and the housing bubble of 2008.
Wait, aren’t monopolies bad? Of course they are, if they block innovation. But some companies that we think of as monopolies only dominate in one section of the market. For example, Google dominates in search. The word Google has been turned into a real verb, as people use it instead of saying search, they say “I’ll google it.” That’s domination. However, they are not dominating in online advertising services, if you look at the bigger picture. It’s a strange dichotomy but true.
To be successful, you should own the means of distribution. Tesla owns and operates their dealerships. That way, they have control of the brand’s perception and can keep track of all of the details such as price point, negotiations, etc. When you work with a traditional dealership, they’re a franchise (think McDonalds) and not owned by the parent company.
Does your company have a plan in the long run? What will it look like in 10, 15 years? These are important questions to ask yourself when you are starting at a startup, or even working at a larger organization. Futurecasting is key here, as you have to think about where the world is heading and how your brand fits into that world. It’s going to have to redefine itself to make it work, and that’s ok.
There is still mystery left in the world. Most of the time, it’s obvious to us. Look at Uber. Who would had thought that normal people would drive for strangers and that it would turn into it’s own industry? It’s such a simple thing, yet it’s got a ton of market value now. This takes deep insights and thinking in order to figure out what secret you want to solve. Another example is energy: there’s got to be another type of energy source out there that humans haven’t figured out yet. And it’s probably very obvious. Someone just has to see it and challenge the status quo on it.
Takeaways on these points
Remember, if you’re not challenging what’s been done before by causing disruption, someone else will. Disruption is the key to innovation, to new ideas, to breakthroughs. Be the engine of difference in order to make our world a better place.