If we attempt to sift through all the noise created by the unrelenting barrage of messaging, we can see there has been a remarkable amount of disruption over the last decade. We have seen Netflix destroy Blockbuster and become a widely embraced platform for entertainment. We have seen Amazon disrupt Walmart and become a part of our daily commerce. And we have seen Uber build a new trusted mode of transportation.

Through technology, these disruptors seemingly found a better way to do something. But a closer look may show that it wasn’t the use of technology that elevated them into the mainstream, but a different mindset.

I would contend that technology is not what’s disrupting the marketplace. Clients are. That means that traditional businesses require a different kind of innovation in order to thrive—not technological innovation, but a transformation in business models. Most models define how an organization creates value and how it communicates that value to customers.

Innovation does not mean coming up with the latest and greatest. It has nothing to do with outdoing your competitor with bigger, better or cheaper devices. Innovation comes directly from a deep and thorough understanding of your customers. In other words, you must understand what your customers want, and in particular, the main steps or activities they undertake in order to satisfy their desires.

Once you learn to look at markets from a customer’s perspective, a whole new wave of disruption will open up for you. Traditional businesses have mostly been doing the same type of things over the course of time. They thirst for innovation, but typically wait for it to happen to them rather than instigating it themselves.

To truly disrupt and innovate, it would make sense that you’re embedded in an industry, have meaningful relationships and unparalleled empathy of the value chain. There are just too many talented people in the world to allow someone to create a better mousetrap. It would be like, “Oh man, how did we not come up with that?”

And don’t tell me that a bunch of coders can sit in their garage and suddenly come up with some idea that disrupts an industry they have no connection or history with. It just doesn’t work that way despite a few glorified examples.

According to Harvard professor and author, Thales Teixiera, “As a rule, traditional strategy frameworks are firm-centric as opposed to being customer-centric. I advise that incumbents devise a system for responding to the overall pattern of disruption produced by changing customer needs.”

It makes sense to stop looking for the silver bullet innovation and start getting to know your community on a more intimate level. Acting like a media company that endeavors to talk with people and share stories has a much better chance of birthing innovation than someone seeking to get rich quick by creating an app.

Innovation is getting commoditized by reinventing a sleeker version of the widget. Yet, those who seek out a deeper understanding of their market will be the true innovators and disruptors.

Mark Potter

Mark Potter

CEO, Conduit, Inc.

Mark Potter is the CEO of Conduit Inc, a content marketing organization, which produces a variety of publications and community building programs including CANVAS Magazine. In addition, Mark is the author of the book, Egrets, Hockey Sticks, & Roller Skates and sits on the Electronic Document Scholarship Board.