Changing the Way the World Thinks about Strategy


The best defense is sometimes a good offense.  One of the most successful strategies I’ve used with clients is to stop worrying about disruption as a threat.  Instead, become the company that is disrupting your industry.  In some cases, this is easier said than done.  There are a few simple steps you should take, however, if you would like to be the disruptor.

First, you cannot start too early.  It’s useless to attempt to be a disruptor in your industry if the disruption has already occurred without you.  It’s very difficult if there is already a 300 pound gorilla dominating the disruption you would use.  Unfortunately for some, disruption is a game that rewards the first movers heavily.

Second, you must understand your strategic competency.  We discussed strategic competency in our last disruption article.  Therefore, without a solid awareness of your unique means of creating value for customers, you will likely struggle with success.

Beyond those two things, the difficult part is identifying how you can be a disruptor most effectively. 

There are several places in your strategic planning process where you should pay particular attention to the possibilities of disruption.  (To  help people using the Simplified Strategic Planning process, I’ve indicated the relevant worksheets for each of the key steps).

Highlight key unmet needs

1. Highlight key unmet needs and preferences when reviewing your Market Segment Analysis worksheets (page 1.1). Always ask the question “Why is this need not being met?”.  Customer needs and preferences are so powerful that failing to meet them inevitably creates an opening for new competitors and new technologies.  If your company can figure this out, you will have a tremendous competitive position, even if your approach is copied.

Disrupt your competitors

2. Understand which disruption would create the greatest difficulty for your competitors when examining competitive data (pages 1.2 and 4.2). If undertaking a little difficulty for yourself creates huge threatening problems for your competitors, it’s well worth the effort.

Pay attention to currently available technology

3. Pay attention to currently available technology that might enable radically different approaches in the Technology Assessment worksheet (page 1.3). You may need to find technologies outside of those currently used in your industry.  Furthermore, you may need to find some relevant scientific research from the past few years.

Discard why you do things

4. In the Perceived Opportunities (page 4.4) exercise, spend a few minutes asking how you might change why your sales, marketing and operations use their current processes. This step is critical because we often do things a certain way “because you can’t make money the other way” or “because it’s impossible to do it that way”.  Strategically, things are usually possible, but we don’t do them for several reasons. They are expensive, require expertise we don’t have, or don’t fit with our current operations.

Use threats as opportunities

5. When examining Perceived Threats (page 4.6), identify threats that you might be able to participate in or cause.  Threats are a great way to identify disruption opportunities.   This is because our fear of a threat often indicates how likely the disruption is to succeed.  Rather than avoiding the threat or attempting to prevent it, you may be able to co-opt the threat and make it your competitive tool.

Remember this will be expensive

Clearly, all five of these steps may lead to dramatic shifts in your strategy and undertakings that consume large amounts of time and money.  The scale of these shifts are often why we instinctively shy away from them – even if the resource investment is tiny compared to the cost of failing to make the shift.  Even more importantly, the competitive advantage of causing the disruptive shift is so huge that it’s difficult to think of an investment that could have higher returns for your business.  There are very few – if any – new multi-billion-dollar businesses that were not built on a disruptive shift in some part of their markets.

If you’d like to use Simplified Strategic Planning to find the best path for your company to become a disruptor, consider attending our next Simplified Strategic Planning seminar. If you’re like most people, you’d benefit from having an experienced professional lead you through the strategic planning process.  Then you can focus on the content of your strategies.  If you’d like to explore how you could do this, please contact me at Center for Simplified Strategic Planning professionals have successfully conducted thousands of strategic planning meetings.  Furthermore, they understand how to best use your planning time.  Consider holding a one-day workshop on Simplified Strategic Planning in the next few months to improve your results.

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Robert Bradford is President & CEO of the Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc.  He can be reached at

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Co-Author Robert Bradford

Author Robert Bradford

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