In the next ten years, 40% of the fortune 500 companies won’t exist in a meaningful way. When we stop paying attention to being the disruptor – we become the disrupted. Growth matters.

Throughout history we’ve seen this happen many times. As our CEO Troy Coyle mentioned in her ThinkTank@HERA article ‘Are you disruption ready?’ the journey of the humble camera is a great example. Here we see how a great innovation, was guilty of being complacent. They were performing well, but didn’t anticipate  disruption in their growth trajectory. In other words, they got comfortable.

Food for thought for many of our members who might be guilty of this right now.

Reflecting on the camera journey

In 1886, George Eastman realised carrying a huge camera box with him wasn’t ideal on his holiday with family. There must to be a better way to capture memories!

Over the next few years he dedicated his time trying to figure out what that was. Discovering how to put a film on a roll instead of a plate and package it inside a cardboard box to become what is now known as the brownie box camera. He managed to transform a complicated expensive process used by the very few, into a simple and more affordable process for millions. It disrupted the industry for the better and Kodak was born.

Kodak continued to improve its technology. In 1947 creating a better version – a sustaining innovation. In 1963, Fuji entered the market. Making film cheaper to model the third type of innovation – efficiency innovation.


Breaking innovation down

  • Disruptive innovations transform complicated, expensive products into simpler and more affordable ones. These are the innovations that create jobs by making products more accessible.
  • Sustaining innovation make good products better. They’re very important for the economy as they keep the market efficient and productive. But, they don’t create jobs – because we buy the new product, not the old one.
  • Efficiency innovation allows the same product to be sold to the same customer more cheaply. While efficiency innovations may free up capital, in the long run they’re responsible for eliminating jobs

In 1975, Kodak labs developed the first electronic camera but chose not to develop it further. In effect, they had created the next disruptive innovation, but were too focused on efficiency innovations and comfortable as the market leader in its field. They failed to see the opportunity the electronic camera presented.

By 2012, everyone was using an electronic camera of which none were made by Kodak. They’d been so blinded by their success that they completely missed the rise of digital technologies and their potential impact on their business. Kodak, the disruptor in 1900, became Kodak the disrupted.


If you think you are performing well, you are going to get disrupted

Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trendhunter found that companies can be categorized into three types based on their self-perception of performance.

  • Companies that will say they are troubled (20%)
  • Companies that are performing well (75%) and
  • Companies that are paranoid (5%).


Troubled companies are likely trying new things. Companies doing well are more likely to be protective, repetitive and complacent.

In our recent business innovation member survey, we asked which technology trends were considered most disruptive. Less than 4% considered Industry 4.0 as disruptive – some didn’t even know what it was. About 30% considered pre-fabrication as most disruptive – due to the higher construction sector member response rate. About 21% thought artificial intelligence was disruptive and 22% automation. More worrying, was that 50% of our membership isn’t interested in transformational growth.

Nearly 65% of our membership represented in the survey had no new innovation to introduce to market. More than 80% haven’t attended or don’t intend to attend an innovation training course. Considering 92% of our members made a profit last year (nearly 30% were highly profitable) – is this a case of falling into the lull of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix’ thinking because we’re performing well? It’s exactly the company mindset that is dangerous – because we aren’t planning for the future.

Focusing only on efficiency innovations sets us up for failure. Growth lies in disruptive innovations – the true fuel of our economy engine.

History shows us growth has always been fueled by big manufacturing revolutions.

  • The steam engine (mid-19th century)
  • The mass production model (beginning of 20th Century)
  • The first automation wave (1970s).

We’re on the verge of the next revolution and not surprisingly this one will also come from manufacturing – the fourth manufacturing revolution.


Become an innovator working on the disruptive edge

Our role as manufacturers will contribute significantly to how the fourth revolution will shape up. We need to start innovating now, if we’re to avoid becoming the bunch that gets disrupted.

If we wish to leave a better legacy for our future generations, then we need to start with ourselves as innovators.

Hal Gregerson, executive director of MIT leadership centre interviewed lots of innovators and found that innovation is a skill that can be learned.


He found: 

  1. Innovators think differently. They connect the unconnected through a process known as association thinking.
  2. Innovators often go to where they get their best ideas from. Where do you personally get your best new ideas? In the car? Sailing? Walking? Do you go there often enough to get your ideas?
  3. Innovators act differently so they can think differently.
  4. Innovators question everything!
  5. They ask the right questions. For example, AG Lafley, ex CEO of Proctor & Gamble used to asked the question, ‘Are consumers delighted when they are buying our products? Getting people on the journey is important not just technically but also emotionally.
  6. Innovators get to the work of innovation. Observing, networking and experimenting as they go along.
  7. Innovators don’t dream up big ideas. They have a little idea that they can make big.


Questions to ask yourself

If we want to leave a legacy for future generations, we need to become innovative ourselves.

This means looking for better ideas to address our challenges. We need to ask better questions and observe, network and experiment as leaders. Ask different questions and prioritise hot questions (the ones that get you uncomfortable or really excited). Get a different perspective of the same problem!


Specifically ask:

  • What business are we in today? For Kodak, the difference meant between framing itself as a chemical film company vs. an imaging company vs. a moment-sharing company.
  • What new opportunities does the disruption open up? Disruption is a great growth opportunity which transforms business models but also grows markets.
  • What capabilities do we need to realise these opportunities? Position yourself to best seize new market opportunities.


At HERA, we’re committed to providing a pathway for our members to prepare for a disruptive future. Our innovation course is an ideal pathway to start thinking about this concept in the context of your own organisation.

Why not sign up for our waitlist to attend our next course intake? Or let us know what your concerns? We’re here to assist you become the best company you can be!




Olivier Scalabre – Video: The next manufacturing revolution is here

Hal Gregerson – Video: How innovators transform industries

Jeremy Gutsche – Video: Disrupt or be disrupted