Disruption Means Transforming Your Users

Much have been written about disruption as the most profound trend and even as a cultural pattern in today’s world.

I want to suggest that disruption, or the idea that whole business sectors and existing technologies and tools are becoming irrelevant and fundamentally changed, in an escalating pace, is linked to our transformation as users of products and services. A transformation which is enabled by the enhanced possibilities for feedback.

Rita J. King, recently related to findings from the IBM annual CEOs survey as a misrepresentation of the notion of disruption  – “To say that competitors are “disrupting” your customer base is wrong thinking about the problem. Competitors are serving your customer base by meeting their needs”.

The understanding that disruption is based on a fundamental shift in the costumers base is true. However, I think this goes further then just meeting the costumers’ needs. More than disruptors are meeting their users needs they are educating them better and indeed even transforming them in more complex and innovative ways.

Kathy Sierrain her book – “Badass – Making Users Awesome” talks about the responsibility of businesses and services to educate, support and coach their prospected users to become better at what they do with the product or service, in the real world.

Taking this idea even a step further Michael Schrage suggests, in hid book – ‘Who Do You Want Your Costumers to Become’, that the aim should be a complete transformation of users in ways that they themselves did not even knew possible. Quoting Henry Ford‘s legendary saying about the fact that he never asked his costumers what they wanted or needed because they would have said they need ‘faster horses’ rather then ‘cars’. So, he went on and transformed Americans into ‘drivers’, which enabled the emergence of the American suburb and led to a disruption of the American city forever.

Following this logic, it seems to me that if driver-less cars are to be as disruptive as they promise to be, their developers would have to first teach us drivers to become something else when using these cars, ‘non-drivers’.

Dyson’s G-Force, 1984

Another early disruptor, Sir. James Dyson, invented the first bag-less vacuum cleaner (disrupting a multi millions industry manufacturing vacuum bags). Dyson designed his cyclonic cleaner to have a transparent bin so that the users could see how the dirt accumulates. This design choice was a strange one, going against all odds and against designers’ advice, because everyone assumed that people would not want to see the dirt they where collecting. But Dyson, seeking the transformation of his costumers, wanted them to become better cleaners. Seeing, with their own eyes, how the cleaning process progressed.

From this perspective, the discussion about Airbnb, an ultimate disruptor of the hotels business, also looks different. Beyond the creation of a perfect network of local suppliers and potential clients meeting through an easy to use website, and even more then the brilliant business model which gives each of us the opportunity to utilize our private assets for an additional, new source of income. Airbnb invested, very early on, in the transformation of their users to become better ‘hosts’.

Brian Chesky, one of Airbnb’s founders and CEO, tells the story about this investment – “we would meet with every single host. We would live with each of the hosts and write the very first reviews. We would also help them take photos because this was pre-iPhone and it was hard to get pictures onto your computer for our hosts…I went out and borrowed a camera from a friend. The hosts were shocked that the founder was also the photographer — in fact we would also hand deliver the rent checks to our first hosts too.”

Transforming one’s users, is done through creating the right feedback mechanisms, and making them ever more fast and easy. This seems to be the ground work of innovative disruption. Facebook, of course, is one of the early internet disruptors, changing the way we socially interact with each other and making us better ‘friends’. Their model is also very much built on the idea of feedback, instant likes, comments and shares. Their recent innovation in the ability to feedback and interact with your ‘friends’ is the ‘Reactions’ feature. This feature enables us to become even better friends, better sharers of personal experiences in the public domain and so we are encouraged by Facebook to specify our emotions and not just like or comment on our friends shares.

This quick, easy emotional reactions in our communication with each other is best expressed today through the extensive use of Emojis.

Swiftkey Emoji Meaning Report

But, as Always is showing us in their recent step of their #LikeAGirl campaign the existing verity exclude a large portion of users. It currently creates a landscape of experiences and expressions from which girls are excluded.

Always, is using the popularity of Emojis and the sharing culture of emotions to highlight their “epic battle” as they say, to make their users unstoppable. They have used the occasion of the International Women’s Day to launch this last message of their campaign aimed at transforming their costumers – girls, to be more confident and become ‘unstoppable’!


If you liked these insights, if you wish to become better in your own efforts to bring about change wherever you are within the complex environment we live in today, then do join the conversation here.

Follow me on Twitter @EitanReich

You are also welcome to visit my website at www.complextochange.net 


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