You have heard the word disruption; you know what that is. And you have heard the word digital. You know what that is, too. But put them together – digital disruption – and they add up to much more than the mere sum of their parts. Digital disruption, when properly understood, should terrify you.
Three sources of digital power – the prevalence of free tools and services that enable disruptors to rapidly build products and services, the rise of digital platforms that are easily exploited by aspiring competitors from all directions, and the burgeoning class of digital consumers ready to accept new services – have combined to unleash a disruptive force that will completely alter every business on the planet. Digital disruption isn’t disruption squared. It’s the disruption of disruption itself.
Most people I meet think they get digital disruption. And a survey of global executives we conducted shows that 89% of executives believe that digital will disrupt their industry. But they don’t realize just how big a deal disruption will be when it finally hits them.
I have been writing and speaking about digital disruption for years – full time for more than a year now – and it still manages to surprise me. In the month of October, I’ll keynote several Forrester Forums and there confess that digital disruption is even more powerful than I thought it was when I wrote the original Disruptor’s Handbook in 2011. What have I learned?
What to do when a failed product concept still lingers, haunting every attempt at injecting it with new life? That's the problem with interactive TV, a term that grates like the name of an old girlfriend, conjuring up hopes long since unfulfilled yet still surprisingly fresh. Gratefully, it’s time to put old product notions of interactive TV behind us because this week Microsoft will release a user experience update to the Xbox 360 that will do for the TV what decades of promises and industry joint ventures have never managed to pull off.
Meet engaged TV. From now on, I will no longer need to plead with the audiences I address, the clients I meet, or my friends who still listen to me to imagine the future of TV. Because Microsoft has just built and delivered it: A single box that ties together all the content you want, made easily accessible through a universal, natural, voice-directed search. This is now the benchmark against which all other living-room initiatives should be compared, from cable or satellite set top boxes to Apple’s widely rumored TV to the 3.0 version of Google TV that Google will have to start programming as soon as they see this. With more than 57 million people worldwide already sitting on a box that’s about to be upgraded for free – and with what I estimate to be 15 million Kinect cameras in some of those homes – Microsoft has not only built the right experience, it has ensured that it will spread quickly and with devastating effect.
Or will someone else do it for you? That's the principal question I have after seeing the first week's worth of responses to our Digital Disruption Readiness Assessment survey. This 5-minute survey (available at forr.com/digitalreadiness) is already revealing critical vulnerabilities in corporate readiness. Consider the following data point:
It's not that people think their industries are safe from digital disruption -- quite the contrary. A full 76% see "significant opportunity" for digital to disrupt the industry they serve. Yet only a third think their companies will put the right resources in place to adapt to the changes that digital will bring.
I spoke at a private conference outside of San Francisco on Tuesday and shared our digital disruption research with the room, elaborating on the Lose It! case study I posted on Mashable last week. Afterward, several entrepreneurs spoke to me about their own experiences as digital disruptors. One of them -- who self-identified as a Gen Yer who had recently received $15 million in funding for his startup -- explained to me that the cost of disrupting has fallen so low that he doesn't even think people like him need to go for the big funding anymore (not that he refused it when it came!). He said, "Especially in software, it only takes $30,000 to build anything in software today."
That's a digital disruptor. He's not bound by traditional economics, old-school partnership boundaries, or even antiquated notions of customer privacy. How are you going to compete with someone who thinks -- and acts -- like that?
As I write this blog post, somewhere in the hotel below me our Forum team is busily preparing for the opening day of our 2011 Consumer Forum. There I will take the stage as the opening keynote presenter and, although I'm going to be talking about the future, it makes me think about the past. Because in 1999 I stood on a similar stage and offered my first Forrester keynote address, entitled "Meet the Digital Consumers."
Back on that stage, with the help of Forrester's Consumer Technographics survey data, I explained how consumers -- once digitally enabled -- would forever alter the way companies serve them. It's now 12 years later, and everything I said then came true, plus some. I didn't know then about YouTube, Facebook, or Groupon. But I did know that digital consumers would want more benefits, more easily, than they received in an analog world.
Today I'll stand on the stage and introduce people to a new entity: digital disruptors. Because while disruption is not new (just as consumers have always been with us), digital disruption is more powerful than before. It allows more individuals to bring ideas to market more cheaply than ever before. Below is a sneak peek at a key slide from the presentation I'll deliver in an hour's time.