A disruptive technology’s inherent magic is in the way it maneuvers through the market to emerge mainstream. Initially entering on scene, it first forms in a niche: a lower segment of the market that’s too expensive or sophisticated for the masses. From this alcove of inaccessibility, it is refined. In time (and at just the right time) it becomes impossible for consumers to resist—standing out as more affordable, more efficient, and generally more worthwhile. And an industry is forever changed.
Today, Microsoft is launching Dare to Disrupt, a disruption self-assessment tool, that helps today’s leaders determine their organization’s readiness to embrace disruptive technologies, based on McKinsey Global Institute’s Disruptive Technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy.
The beauty of the disruption is that humanity has everything to gain. Simply put, disruptive technologies put the consumer first in order to serve the under-served. They’re for the people.
So how did computer programmers and entrepreneurs become brilliant innovators? They dared to disrupt.
1. Start small, and iterate.
Disruptive innovators take small steps to make a big impact. When investor Paul Graham told Airbnb co-founders to “do things that don’t scale,” they ran with it. It meant focusing on creating a hospitality experience in a controlled setting, perfecting it, then building up from there—and that’s just what they did. They remained lean for as long as they could and personalized service to get pointed feedback. Seven years later, Airbnb is a multi-billion–dollar business that spans more than 190 countries.
2. Dare to disrupt.
The disruptor frames problems in ways that no one has before. For a solution to the world’s energy problem, Elon Musk and his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive are making solar panels accessible and adoption possible for the masses. SolarCity is proving mastery over its market, thanks to the inherent power of the sun.
3. Defend the integrity of your idea.
All disruptors have critics, and so many buckle in the face of scrutiny. But not 31-year old Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. With just a prick of the finger, Holmes’ diagnostic lab test could disrupt the $75 billion lab test industry and transform preventive medicine—bringing cheaper blood tests and quicker results for all. Although the disruption hasn’t yet materialized, media criticism is questioning the accuracy of the technology. A scathing WSJ article published in October raises highly technical questions on the integrity of the company, putting its long-term viability into question. What is Holmes’ response? Pointed rebuttals, detailed clarifications, and in-person interviews. On October 15, Theranos issued a press release that stated: “Stories like this come along when you threaten to change things…. [N]othing will deter us from…continuing to fight for transformative change in health care.”
Who will be our next great disruptors?
From business to art to how we live, innovative thinkers dare to take their passion projects to the doubters and the critics, leaving a bold, lasting mark on the masses. Will you be a disruptor or the disrupted?