Hundreds of years ago aluminum was the most precious metal. If you visited a king and were really important you got the aluminum dishes. Gold or silver dishes were for those less important.

All that changed when new ways to get aluminum out of the ground were invented. With a fairly quick swoop, aluminum went from very valuable to a point where now you walk down the aisle in a store and shelves are filled with inexpensive aluminum wares.

These things happen in many industries. Xerox didn’t see the graphical user interface as useful so they sold off the technology to Apple. Famously, Bill Gates at Microsoft didn’t think the internet was worth the investment until it was almost too late. They only recovered because they had an operating system to bundle their browser in with.

In the WordPress space many small agencies are currently being disrupted by the amazing tools available for website owners to take their content and build a halfway decent site with no code.

Now the question is, what do you do to make sure you’re not on the wrong side of disruption?

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Here are 4 things to help you stay on the right side of the disruption curve.

1. Identify what everyone in your industry takes as a ‘give in’.

Do you remember when it was really hard to set up a site for ‘secure’ traffic via https? That was just like a few months ago really. Then Let’s Encrypt came along and we can now get a basic SSL for free and it will automatically be renewed for us without any interaction on our part.

SSL companies were taking it as a given that it was hard and they could make it easier and charge you lots for a reasonably simply but obtuse process. The market for basic SSLs is in the process of drying up because Let’s Encrypt stopped taking the difficulty as a ‘give in’ and made the process easier.

A call to tech support for anything often means hours of waiting on hold, unless you’re calling Hover about a domain, and then 9 a.m. to 5  p.m. Eastern time, someone will pick up. No hold. No leaving a message. A real person just picks up the phone and can help you.

What does your industry take as a ‘give in’? Something that just has to be this way because it does and it always has been. How are you held up by that thought?

2. Entertain crazy ideas.

There was this time I was in the store and felt as if I were stuck in some movie. In this movie I was sneaking around shoplifting things. Well really only one thing made me feel like that in the store–purchasing new razors.

Over time, shopping for razors became incredibly difficult. Either you were in a store where you had to get someone to let you into the case, or some big buzzer going off if you opened the case. There were cameras all over, and I swear, a trap door just in case you slipped a pack of razors into your pocket.

Shopping for razors was a terrible experience until companies like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s came along. I’ve been a happy subscriber to Harry’s as long as they’ve been available in Canada. I simply order my razors and they show up in the mail.

I get a discount and don’t have to feel like a criminal.

What is the biggest complaint you hear from clients in your industry? How can you solve it for them?

3. Say goodbye to sunk cost.

One of my friends works in IT for a large corporation. They don’t have a legal requirement to store their data locally but when the idea of cloud storage came up their IT director would always go on about how the current servers still hadn’t paid for themselves so they needed to keep using them.

Then one would fail and need to be replaced so there was another server that hadn’t paid for itself yet.

One day last year there was a fire, and unfortunately they had been storing nothing offsite. That meant that every piece of data which only existed on their servers was gone.

If they had been using any type of offsite storage then their data would have been safe but they couldn’t say goodbye to the sunk cost. They kept throwing good money after bad and had a terrible solution.

Just because you’ve started down one path in your business, doesn’t mean you have to keep going that way. Be willing to say goodbye to your ideas and move on in a new path as you learn more.

4. Stop protectionism.

Remember the iPod? At one point it was the biggest money maker in the Apple fleet of products. Then we got the iPhone, and while it didn’t kill the iPod on day one, it has far surpassed it now.

What if the lead iPod engineer was able to stop the development of the iPhone so that it didn’t kill iPod sales? Would we have the awesome devices we have today? Would Apple exist in the way it does with the revenue it has?

Likely not.

Sometimes to disrupt your business you need to hurt your current cash cow. Not every revenue stream is going to be around forever. When you look at your revenue you need to ask yourself, what could take it away?

If you’re working on a new product and realize it may hurt current offerings, you just may be on the right path for the future of your business, so keep going.

We all want to be disruptive with our business. We want to catch the trends as they happen to make sure that we keep our businesses healthy. Unfortunately the longer our business has been around the less likely we are to be disruptive.

Use the 4 thoughts above to question where your business is and make sure that you disrupt yourself.

photo credit: s3a cc