Playing offense

by. Kristiana Lockman

At first glance, disruptive innovations can be hard to get your head around. Take 3D printing. How is that possible? If I draw a ball on my computer and click print, will it come bouncing out of my HP Laserjet printer? Cool. And what about Amazon’s delivery drones? My mind goes right to small, black, ninja-like helicopters bonking their noses on my low porch overhang, dropping the Ming vase I just scored for $9.99 on eBay. How is that going to work exactly?

Understanding a disruptive innovation requires a willingness to think differently about something we’ve come to accept as normal, to see an old problem in a new way. Today, companies like Uber, Tesla, Amazon, and Umpqua are asking us to do just that, energizing outdated business and marketing models and upsetting entrenched leaders in the process. A car I can buy direct from its maker, an Internet company that delivers toothpaste before I know I need it, and a bank that wants me to drop in anytime for ice cream and a quick scan of the New York Times via iPad are examples of organizations innovating in unexpected ways, creating new markets for routine products and services that have become decidedly less gratifying over time. These companies have decided to play offense in markets where defense has become the norm.

This concept of disruption is especially compelling when it hits home. Case in point:

In Portland recently, I called for a cab. A business meeting had gone into overtime, and I was in danger of missing my flight to Seattle, a flight I needed to be on in order to pick up my kids from their after-school activities.

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