You may ask, “How can any healthcare or practice leader keep ahead of the relentless pace of disruption? Aren’t there too many moving parts?”

Relax. It’s easy to assume that all of the changes happening across the changing customer, emerging technologies, and economic shifts are far too complicated to ever understand. The good news is that assumption is wrong. Today’s Innovation Superstars develop a core competency around future trends. They don’t need to understand the endless minutia of every little emerging technology, consumer behavior, or economic shift. If we can focus on these building blocks at a high level, we can begin to understand how these changes impact the way in which we deliver human experiences, technologies, and services, and ultimately how we serve to achieve sustainable results on strategy.

The “Baby Step” Approach Doesn’t Work

Too many organizations attempt to leverage disruption by taking baby steps at disruptive initiatives that include future-casting activities, innovation customer experience (CX), workforce engagement initiatives—and the list goes on and on. The leaders therefore assume that by taking a cursory approach to leveraging disruption they’ll stay ahead. The problem is that the rate and depth of change requires a holistic and comprehensive approach towards gaining better customer and market insights, while doing a far better job of maximizing the efficiencies and effectiveness of our teams and leaders. In other words, today’s disruption is changing everything, and how leaders lead is no exception.

Be Brave and Lean into Disruption

Innovation Superstars are brave. Their bravery is revealed by their absolute willingness to lean into their own executive development by accepting and even driving the changes occurring both with in their organization and outside in the markets and economies they serve.

Many of today’s leading companies began as upstart market disruptors. They include:

  • Airbnb. Launched in 2008 by Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, by understanding and leveraging shifts in consumer behavior this global hospitality giant succeeded by overturning conventions in the hospitality business that had been around for a century.
  • SpaceX. Headed by Elon Musk, this disruptor of the aerospace industry designs, manufactures, and launches re-usable rockets and spacecraft, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. The company’s success comes at a time when private companies are entering the space market, an endeavor long associated with, and controlled by, national governments.
  • Facebook. Led by Mark Zuckerberg, this massive global social media company, founded in 2004, has totally disrupted and transformed how people communicate and share information. Similar digital disruptors include Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
  • Spotify. Founded by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon, this music steaming service has disrupted the economic model of popular music by shifting billions of consumers away from buying music (records, CDs, MP3 downloads) to renting it. With Spotify and other streaming services you pay a fee to listen to a song. Each time you listen, the owner of the song gets a micropayment.
  • Netflix. The brainchild of Reed Hastings, Netflix has disrupted how we view movies and has shaken up the movie production industry. Remember Blockbuster video rentals? Blockbuster was blind to the disruptive force of Netflix, and by failing to respond, it got crushed.

Amazon, Uber, Lyft, Tesla, Spanx, Red Bull, WeWork, 23andMe, SurveyMonkey… the list goes on and on. We live in an era of unprecedented market disruption.

This makes many excellent leaders nervous. CEOs sometimes say, “My business isn’t going to change the world. I’m not Steve Jobs or Sara Blakely.” Or, “We’re a service business,” or, “Our product is ubiquitous. We’re not high-tech.”

The solution is in two parts:

  1. You’re not competing head-to-head against Apple or Spanx. You’re competing in your market, which you know very well. Your market is very intense and competitive in its own way.
  2. While most businesses aren’t going to be massive market disruptors, any business can innovate and stay ahead of their competition. For example, in November 2017 Domino’s Pizza rolled out its “Pizza Insurance” program. It simply stated that if your takeout pizza got run over by a car, or drenched in the rain, or dropped on the sidewalk, within two hours of purchase you could bring it back to the same store, uneaten and in its original packaging, and you’d get a free replacement pizza of the same type.

Is there any product more ubiquitous than pizza? Or any market more intensely competitive? And yet Domino’s stays ahead by making innovations in how its product is marketed, and disrupting—in an incremental way—the pizza home delivery industry.

There are functional areas in your business ready for innovation. As an innovation leader, all you have to do is identify them and nurture them.