A group of guys created an app to help organize podcasts. It bombed. No one wanted it. But instead of devoting themselves to convincing the market to like their podcast app, they decided to try something else. They called it Twitter – and we all know where that story went.
This is something many startups do very well — they walk into the ofﬁce each morning and ask, “So what’s our business model today?” This isn’t about change for change’s sake. It’s an openness to new possibilities, collaborations, even a whole new strategy. It’s about paying attention to what your customers and the market are saying (and what they’re saying through the things they’re not saying) and letting that insight lead to new developments and fresh perspectives. This kind of openness and belief in our inherent expansive capacity paves the way for innovation and forward progress.
Maybe your organization has always made X thing and sold it to Y person for Z dollars. Today, for now, that’s who you are. But that’s not all you are. That’s not all you’re capable of becoming. You have the capacity to reinvent, reimagine, recreate.
When we’re not willing to see pathways to reinvention, we run the risk of having the model we so deeply depend upon, being disrupted and reappropriated. This is essentially what most internet / software companies have done. Airbnb has already overtaken major hotel companies in terms of its valuation by investors, but its growth could have it outpacing them in more concrete terms—actual guest bookings—in a few years, according to a Barclays research report. The rooms available in 2014 jumped from 300,000 in February to a million in December, while the largest hotel company in Europe measured by rooms, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), had about 698,000 rooms in its portfolio. Airbnb offers more rooms than many of the largest hotel groups in the world–Hilton, InterContinental and Marriott— which each maintain just under 700,000 rooms. (Marriott said today at the World Economic Forum that it expects its portfolio of hotels to surpass 1 million rooms by the end of 2015.)
But it wasn’t the technology alone that lead to that transformation. It was the big sky thinking that arrives when we’re willing to try something new; when we’re open to applying ourselves to more questions, instead of being being focused on our answers..
The essence of strategy is continuing to test what is available. What else is possible? What are we willing to imagine, create, invent? Where could we go, that we’ve never been? What else have we got in us?
The two principles we are always dealing with are:
“Imagination is more important thank knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
– Albert Einstein
If you are not disrupting yourself, someone else is; your fate is to be either the disrupter or the disrupted. There is no middle ground.