How vulnerable is your business to disruptive technology? I will bet you a Betamax videotape that you aren’t paying enough attention to this. And what you don’t know can hurt you.
Let’s look at an example from my backyard: search engine optimization. Here is what life looked like if you tried to forge a 20-year tenure in the SEO business:
- In 1994, content-driven search engines were the hot thing. People used products like Excite, Lycos, Yahoo and Altavista, and you did your best to cram as much content as you could into your customer’s pages. If you were really creative, you perhaps even repeated search terms hundreds of times using white-on-white text in the background.
- Fast-forward to the late 90s and early 2000. Google comes along with its PageRank algorithm as well as page rank tools like Link Juice. Now, your goal is to post links to your content far and wide. And woe be unto anyone who creates an unprotected blog, and watches its comments fill with links for Viagra and financial scams.
- By 2004, Google has created the “nofollow” tool to prevent content spamming. A year later they release Google Analytics, and later that year when nofollow is abused by SEO gamers, Google cracks down by limiting “link juice” within the nofollow tool.
- Google completes this successful trifecta by releasing a new “sandboxing” tool, and this marks the beginning of the end for all other major search engines and the rise in dominance of Google SEO rankings.
In just ten short years from 1995 to 2005 a thriving SEO marketplace with multiple competitors has shrunk down to just a few due to a specific disruptive technology: Google. Google is now the 800-pound gorilla in the SEO market with 93% of the online and mobile web organic search worldwide. Over 200 ranking factors now evaluate your site in Google’s algorithm; rewarding businesses that create valuable and original content while punishing companies that try to game the system. And other search engines such as Yahoo, AOL, and Bing have been left behind in the dust.
We’ve seen this type of disruptive technology trend before in other major industries. BetaMax vs VHS, Blackberry vs iPhone. What creates the winners and losers? BetaMax taught us that it isn’t only a superior product while Apple’s iPhone demonstrated that you can succeed with a closed technology garden. So, if it’s not technical superiority or open technology, what leads these tech companies to be major players? What turns the market against these outliers so quickly, in less than a decade in some cases?
Information technology communication companies tend to disrupt approximately every 30 years – look at the telegraph (1840), the telephone (1870), radio (1900), TV (1930), cable (1960), and the Internet (1990). The next major leap I predict will occur by 2020, and many major players are laying the foundations for this next generation. And that’s quite literally it. As generations evolve, a new group of younger souls move to a freer more diverse platform compared with the one that preceded it.
The connection that creates that level of success in technology industries is the balance between two sets of common factors. Today’s consumers habits are a balance between the future (defined here as choice and freedom) and the past (defined as convenience and reliability). As consumers, humans are more willing to give up the freedoms of both choice and privacy in order to gain convenience and reliability. Think about it: we voluntarily carry GPS tracking devices with us that not only monitor our physical locations but also track our virtual locations through in the online world. Hence the popular confession that Google and Facebook know more about me than my significant other.
So what’s a CEO to do when it comes to the next wave of disruptive technology?
Will you see the competition and change coming? Companies need a predictive disruptive technology analysis tool to provide a strategic roadmap that will move them ahead of the pack. What this roadmap offer (which no other product can) is the knowledge of how specifically to protect and leverage information to your advantage; growing while simultaneously future-proofing your organization. C-Level suites and executive boards need a clear vision and an actionable plan to reduce risk, increase revenue and insure corporate success.