How do you fight disruption? Or should you just give up?

In our new book IGNITE, my co-author and I spend some time on classic models of innovation in the United States. One such story on innovation we tell is about Thomas Edison and the lightbulb. We all know this classic story of invention, but what’s interesting is if we turn the lens to the idea of the disruption this actually caused at the time. Gas companies, who had the monopoly on light at the time, didn’t just suddenly go out of business.

Instead, as we look more deeply at the issue, we see that according to Nathan Furr and Daniel Snow, gaslight companies instead borrowed the idea of filament technology to increase their efficiency. And for the next 12 years held off Edison and nearly bankrupted him! They don’t mention that in your basic history class do they? Much like the protracted battles of Uber vs the Taxi lobby taking place in my hometown of Austin, TX, disruption doesn’t happen overnight. So far Uber and Lyft aren’t putting anyone out of business. In our book we look at how Fortune 500, nonprofits, and govt agencies can identify internal entrepreneurs who want to create this type of disruption and harness it for the good of the company they work at.

When innovation happens inside your company you can’t ignore it. You can however harness and motivate the people behind it. And according to Furr and Snow you can also create a hybrid. A combination of what your company is already doing + something they are not. Take a look at what they came up with below. It’s a great starting place to “fight off” outside disrupters.

What looks most like your strategy when a disruptive competitor shows up on your radar? Let us know in the comments.


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