If your event is struggling to reclaim its place in an age driven by technological advances, it may be time to implement disruptive innovation to keep it afloat. Twenty years ago, Harvard’s Clayton Christensen first introduced the concept of disruptive innovation as “a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses.” Four companies—BlackBerry, Blockbuster, Borders and Kodak—from four very different industries have frequently been called casualties of this phenomena.
Blockbuster is a good example of how disruptive innovation can make or break a business. Why did Blockbuster, a booming company in 2000, file for bankruptcy 10 years later, while Netflix, a fledgling company in 2000, grew to the $28 billion company it is today? The answer is simple: Blockbuster ignored the need to adapt to a changing world that demands innovation not only in its product or service, but also in its business model. Ironically in 2000, Blockbuster rejected Netflix’s proposed partnership.
BlackBerry, Borders and Kodak have similar stories of failing to recognize a shift in customer wants and needs that were better served by companies choosing to transform their business models. Disruption is not a do-it-once proposition, but instead a continuous evolution.
Will Netflix continue to disrupt and remain a leader? A few years ago, it began to transform itself again, creating DVD.com for its DVDs and Blu-rays, while shifting its core business to streaming and on-demand services. This allowed Netflix to begin distributing its own television shows and movies. Fast-forward to today’s market in which ABC, CBS, NBC, TBS and Amazon, to name a few, are offering their own online services for their exclusive content. Is Netflix now the established business being challenged by smaller companies with fewer resources? The outcome remains to be seen.
Why is this important to the events world?
Associations once were the exclusive provider of products and services to their communities. Today, for-profit competitors, and even loyal exhibitors at trade shows, offer products and services once exclusive to associations. In this competitive environment, associations must rethink their value propositions and look to innovations that will better serve the needs of multigenerational members.
Where should you begin?
“Leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who,’” says Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t.” The book has been widely embraced as a model by which associations should improve because of its people-first approach. Sometimes that means tough choices at the start. Good leaders “start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats,” Collins writes. Only then can an organization set a direction for change.
MaryAnne Bobrow, CAE, CMP, CMM has more than 20 years of experience in association and meetings management. She is an active member of multiple industry associations, for which she also volunteers. Bobrow also authored chapters for industry-specific books and magazines, and presents webinars for several industry organizations. She is a frequent presenter at industry events as well. Learn more about Bobrow at bobrowassociates.com.