Use Anticipation to Turn Disruption Into Opportunity

For the longest time, cable television was a miraculous technology that not everybody had in their homes, mostly because not everybody could afford it. Now, not everyone has it in their homes because YouTube TV, Sling TV, and other new, emerging technologies have disrupted the broadcast industry. So why didn’t Spectrum think of it first? Why did they become the disrupted and not the disruptor?

For the longest time, cable television was a miraculous technology that not everybody had in their homes, mostly because not everybody could afford it. Now, not everyone has it in their homes because YouTube TV, Sling TV, and other new, emerging technologies have disrupted the broadcast industry. So why didn’t Spectrum think of it first? Why did they become the disrupted and not the disruptor?

At some point, Spectrum and many others established a cash cow — a product or service that generates the majority of your income and profits — and got comfortable building a successful business around it while protecting and defending it. The fact that most of us are all busy, focused, and needing to meet or exceed our quarterly numbers keeps us from looking far enough ahead in our industries to see disruption.

In order to thrive in this time of exponential change, it is imperative to actively scan far outside of your industry looking for new ways to disrupt yourself first. When you discover a new technology or disruptive technology-driven trend, it is important to separate what I call the Hard Trends that will happen from the Soft Trends that might happen.

Anticipating disruption before it happens defines whether you’ll be the disrupter or the disrupted, using predictable Hard Trends to create the new cash cows that will disrupt your competitors and grow your future.

Another reason so many companies fail to see disruption is that the strategy most often invoked is to protect and defend the status quo. The amount of time and money organizations spend protecting and defending their current cash cows is astounding, as in the past, this was a valid strategy producing good results. However, digital disruption is different, as it tends to be game-changing with a low cost of entry.

A key to success for an established company that’s facing early-stage disruption is to adopt a strategy of embrace and extend. Spectrum continues to spend millions on bringing in customers for cable, Internet, and phone packages, mostly campaigning on the grounds that you can’t watch sports without cable. Unfortunately, Spectrum and other cable providers saw Internet TV like YouTube or Sling as a Soft Trend, much like Blockbuster viewed Netflix, that could be protected and defended against. It was definitely a Hard Trend. YouTube and Sling have conquered broadcast sports and are quickly leaving Spectrum in the dust.

The assumption that disruption won’t happen to you and your business is dangerous. Today, there are many industries still ripe for disruption. Taking the time to look outside of your industry at the Hard Trends shaping the future will amaze you. Understanding that digital disruption will happen to you if it has not already happened is important.

Ask yourself if you are looking inside and outside of your business. What are your blind spots? What fundamental assumptions about the “way things will always be” do you operate on? And what are you doing to become your own disruptor?

What is a hotel? What is a taxi? What is a bookstore? Companies like Marriott and Barnes & Noble, and even government agencies like New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, thought they knew the answers to those questions, and Spectrum and other cable providers are currently thinking the same way.

What do you think you know about your industry?

The connectivity of the Internet has changed so many industries. The emergence of Netflix, Hulu, and even Spotify for music has not only revolutionized the entertainment media industry and consumers’ consumption of said media, but it has also closed up some of the loopholes that fostered piracy of content. They are problem solvers, and now they are solving the problem of customers having to pay exorbitant fees to companies like Spectrum and DirecTV to merely cling to one favorite sports channel.

If these cable providers offered a cost-effective alternative with a price and framework similar to YouTube TV’s, they would be using this current disruption to their advantage. But is it too late for them? Are the days of cable as we know it over? Better yet, will Spectrum shrink exponentially until it’s merely an Internet provider? If so, it’d be foolish to ignore the possibility that a more affordable means of accessing the Internet is on the horizon as well.

Letting your ideas about consumers calcify and ceasing adapting or anticipating is when you start inadvertently digging your own grave, no matter how outlandish the disruption may seem. Believing that your business is immune to changing circumstances is the common thread between all disrupted organizations. The fundamental assumptions of so many industries have turned out to be wrong.

You need to become your own disruptor, your own best competition. Don’t get comfortable. Disrupt yourself, or someone else will.

Which technology innovations could be a game-changer for your industry? Learn how to tell with my latest book The Anticipatory Organization.

Marketers Must Learn to Anticipate Content Trends

Every company, regardless of size, knows they must advertise if they are to grow. Yet with all the money that is being spent, it is increasingly difficult to get your message to the right audience. This is where it pays to be anticipatory. Using the systemic method outlined in my Anticipatory Organization Model, you can ready your organization for the disruptive transformations ahead.

Do you remember when MTV was the best way to get in front of the teen and young adult audience? Once mobile technology became popular, it didn’t take long for that age group to be on the move.

In no time, videos were streaming on iTunes. Though teens continued to watch, viewership dropped. Then came instant messaging, followed by social media. For a time, Facebook gave advertisers their niche audience of young consumers congregated in one place.

That is until Snapchat and Instagram came along.

To add to the challenges of the last couple of decades, smart speakers are now in about one-quarter of U.S. homes, and podcasts are gaining popularity. In fact, about 50 percent of households now say they listen to podcasts, with a majority of them joining the trend in just the last three years.

According to whypodcasts.org, 38 percent of listeners are age 18-34, and 64 percent listen on their smartphones.

What’s Next in Target Marketing?

As technology-driven change changes direction, it is easier, and far more profitable, to change direction with it. “It’s easier to ride a horse in the direction it is going.” That’s what my grandfather told me as a little boy working with him on his farm in Texas.

Every company, regardless of size, knows they must advertise if they are to grow. Yet with all the money that is being spent, it is increasingly difficult to get your message to the right audience.

This is where it pays to be anticipatory. Using the systemic method outlined in my Anticipatory Organization Model, you can ready your organization for the disruptive transformations ahead.

Three Hard Trends and Two Tech Trends to Watch

In my work as a technology and business futurist, I have found the most effective way to approach becoming an AO is to focus on demographics, government regulations, and technology. In addition, it is always good to know which consumer technology trends will stick around. I call these Hard Trends (as opposed to Soft Trends, which may come and go).

  • Demographics drive opportunity. There are nearly 80 billion baby boomers in the United States. Not a single one is getting any younger—a definite Hard Trend.

  • Government regulation is a constant. As a general rule, will there be more or less government regulation in the future? Of course, there will be more, and that’s true regardless of the industry or organization. That’s also a Hard Trend.

  • Technology will continue to grow. From the ever-increasing functional capabilities of our smartphones to the growing use of 3D printing, technology is inevitably going to become more functional, more sophisticated, and more widespread. That’s another definite Hard Trend.

  • Multi-layered media is here to stay. According to research, our attention spans are shorter than ever, and consumers demand instant gratification and quick fixes—not a litany of product features and benefits.

Today, content channels such as social media, Apple Watch, and Google Home provide the perfect vehicles for interactivity at any time, in any place, and with any person.

  • Consumer attention is likely to stay at a premium. At least for the foreseeable future, multi-layered media is here to stay. Consumer attention remains at a premium.

Advertisers know the harsh reality: Running an ad on a major television network and supplementing it with web banner ads is no longer a guarantee of reaching the audience.

If you use my Hard Trends Methodology to look ahead to the future of marketing, you’ll be able to anticipate the fast-moving innovations to come. New devices are likely to be developed, and their connectivity doesn’t show signs of slowing any time soon.

Learn to be anticipatory—start with my book, the Anticipatory Organization, available on Amazon.com.

Pop Quiz, Monday with Matt Cooper at Skillshare

The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?
Matt Cooper

Matt Cooper
Photo credit: Matt Cooper

What is your job role?
CEO of Skillshare

Tell us about your company?
Skillshare is an online learning community for creators. With 5 million members and 20,000+ classes, we’re on a mission to connect curious, lifelong learners everywhere — and build a more creative, generous, and prosperous world.

What do you love most about your job?
Building and working with a great team. When you have a great group of people, who are aligned toward the same goals which then go out and get it done day in and day out.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?
Skillshare is making a very clear difference in people’s lives, and it also happens to be an amazing business. It’s really hard to find a company that can offer both a clear impact on the world and some really fun business challenges.

How do your co-workers inspire you?
We have a lot of very smart, very motivated employees that will do whatever it takes to move the company forward. I’m always inspired by the really clever approaches our team finds to solve difficult problems.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?
We have quarterly business reviews that we always pair with a team activity to get everyone out of the office together — like a mullet, business up front and party in the back. Our best activity so far, in my opinion, was our company talent show. We have some very talented people at Skillshare and a few that aren’t talented at all but make up for it with stage presence. 😉

Day to day, I’d say Slack is our primary source of entertainment. There’s nothing I love more than an employee with great Giphy game.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
The hardest issues are always the people issues, and when there are a lot of pressing business demands, it’s easy to not stay on top of some of them. We all have a lot going on personally and professionally and as the company expands the challenges of keeping the employees happy, motivated and challenged day to day to expand as well.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?
If I had one piece of advice for any founder or CEO, it would be to focus on the team around you. When you have a great executive team (like I do), you and the company have a lot more capacity to focus on the most impactful opportunities.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?
You should join (or start) a startup because you love the grind, not because you want to get rich. Startups are a little like being an actor — you may end up as Tom Cruise, but statistically, you are more likely to be “Guy at Bar #3”. You should do it because you love building things and fixing problems and you love the journey more than the destination.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:
www.skillshare.com
@skillshare (on Twitter and Instagram)