One of the people who spoke — and talked — at the meeting I was at this week was Jay Samit, author of the book Disrupt You!
And I want to share this tiny little tactical slice of his presentation with you, because I thought it was really powerful.
(And perhaps if you see its power, you’ll do the smart thing and buy his book because it goes deep into the principles behind this exercise.)
Jay has become a specialist in disruption.
Where a new innovation comes along and turns entire industries on their head.
Disruption is nothing new. Ford did it by making cars affordable, totally disrupting the horse and buggy transportation industry.
But it seems to be accelerating, with the exponential increase in tech driving constant disruption in every corner of the business world.
Notwithstanding their $1.2 billion financial loss in the first half of this year, Uber is the poster child for disruption.
A team creates a mobile app. If you have a car and this app, you can offer rides. It connects you with people near you, with the app, who will pay you to drive them somewhere. If you need a ride, you simply tell the app, and a nearby driver can be told to come pick you up.
So… Frigging’… Simple…
And functionally, it’s infinitely scalable. Every app download is another potential rider or driver. There’s no capital expenditure to get a fleet of cars. There’s no overhead of hiring and training drivers. It’s all in the app.
And so practically overnight, they’ve disrupted the taxi industry. To the point that Massachusetts is going to tax Uber (riders will pay), to try to stave off the death of the taxi industry.
You can’t legislate away disruption.
Imagine if we were all still driving horse and buggies because Uncle Sam had taxed cars so heavily that they weren’t an option for the mass market.
Sure, they can levy taxes in the near term. And they will. But at best it’s life support for a crashing patient. The heart and intention is in the right place, but it’s only prolonging the suffering.
Disruption is powerful. Disruption shapes the future. And disruption — new ideas that shake the market to its core — can make you rich.
So, how do you create disruption? Very simple, according to Samit.
Now one of my biggest business heroes and “mentors from afar,” Gary Bencivenga, said every problem is a market.
And obstacle here is a synonym for problem.
So rather than thinking about what product you want to make or what you want to do, go looking for obstacles and problems, in your everyday life.
Make it a habit for the next 30 days. Write down 3 problems or obstacles per day.
It’ll start with big things. You’re cooking, you realize you’re missing an ingredient you need, and wish you could just call up the store to have it delivered.
You have to spend the first few days getting through these big, well-recognized problems.
As you go though, you’ll be looking harder and harder for problems and obstacles that come up in everyday life.
Plus, you’ll be honing your mind and awareness to be on the lookout.
Keep these obstacles and problems in a journal. 3 per day. 30 days. If you think about it in the morning, try not to totally forget about it during the day, and come back to it at night to make sure you have your list of 3, it should be pretty easy.
At the end of 30 days, you’ll have 90 obstacles you’ve identified. 90 problems in search of a solution. 90 markets waiting to disrupted.
Now is where you have to do some thinking and research.
Start looking through the problems.
Any tiny ones, you can basically throw away. If solving the problem will ONLY help you, or ONLY help a few people, it might be a great hobby or charitable endeavor, but it’s not a disruptive business. (The video on How To Cut Foam Wings for Model Airplanes I started selling with my dad in 2007 definitely fell under this category.)
You’re looking for BIG problems. By that I don’t necessarily mean problems that require a big solution. But rather, problems that impact a ton of people. Peter Diamandis regularly repeats his aphorism that “If you want to become a billionaire, find a way to help a billion people.” That’s what we’re talking about with big problems.
Venture a guess. If you were to create a no-brainer solution to this problem, how many people would it help per year?
How many lives can a solution to this problem positively impact?
Pick what you consider to be your top 10 or so problems on that list, in terms of how many lives your solution could impact for the better.
What we’re looking at is HUGE, RIPE markets waiting for a solution to a common and painful problem. (I need a ride, but a Taxi is too expensive, and a pain in the butt to get. If only I could get an affordable driver here right away, from the convenience of my smart phone — and without talking to a dispatcher.)
But identifying the problem to solve and the market isn’t enough. If you don’t care about the market, you shouldn’t be in it.
You don’t have to love the taxi industry to start Uber, but you do need to have passion about creating a solution.
What you’re looking for is a HUGE, RIPE market, where you have enough EXCITEMENT and PASSION to drive you through the work of creating 183 different prototypes of your solution and enduring the entrepreneurial “Dark night of the soul,” before you see any real success.
When you find that crossroads of a giant problem in need of solution with your passion and natural drive, then you’re on to something.
This is the process that will create the next multi-billion-dollar disruptive product or service…
Maybe it won’t be created intentionally, with 90 problems and obstacles in a journal.
But it will happen because someone is annoyed about a problem somewhere, and it gets under their skin that they finally throw up their arms in frustration and say, “This needs a solution!”
Jay’s students are already putting this process to work.
Forgive me if I get the numbers wrong, because this isn’t in my notes, but I believe he said one of his students created a $100 million+ company in a year following this model.
This is definitely an exceptional number, but it does represent the true power of this. With today’s technology, the speed of adoption of disruptive ideal solution to a problem can be almost instantaneous. You can literally go from idea to 9-figure+ valuations between birthdays.
Jay went into a lot more detail, and if you want to go deeper, buy his book on Amazon. (Another disruptor company!)
Here’s my final thoughts on disruption and technology…
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Everything is changing around us. FAST. Faster than we can even imagine.
It used to be you could learn a single skill and make a living off of it for your entire life.
Today, we’re facing a technological trend that is going to change the face of employment and work at an incredibly rapid pace.
Robots have killed manufacturing jobs. Not just here. Everywhere.
AI is starting to supplement knowledge work — soon it will replace it.
There’s already a company that claims to be able to write winning email subject lines and headlines with AI.
It won’t be long before entire 10,000-word sales letters can be written by AI, and they’d beat the pants off the lot of us, including the legends.
Things are changing, very fast.
It’s hard to say where they’re going to — exactly. But what I can tell you is that the impact will be largely decided by our reaction to the changes.
Don’t mean to be dire on a Friday afternoon. And frankly, the positive side of this is the incredible access to resources, services, and so on that all this new tech can give us.
If we can handle the change, we’re in for a period of abundance so far greater than you can even imagine. So much that was once science fiction will be reality.
I don’t know. But this is what all the really smart people I read, listen to, and hang out with are talking about today. And it’s a topic that will lead the societal conversation for years to come.
Coming back to today, this moment, we have an opportunity to hop on the front side of this monster wave — if I can borrow a surfing analogy — and ride it for all it’s worth!
And, perhaps, by creating the breakthroughs and disruptions, do very well for ourselves between now and then.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,