Disruption by design

Nick Phipps
Nick Phipps Digital Strategist | Strategy Team

Actually, let me rewrite that title...

Redefining by design

Clayton Christensen (@claychristensen) popularised the term "disruptive innovation" in his iconic book, "The Innovator's Dilemma", published in 1997. The term was introduced to describe the approach a smaller company can take to outcompete a larger rival to eventually gain market share and overtake the competition.

The problem with disruption theory, and the term disruption, is that it has become an obsession in business and misrepresented so many times that it now holds an almost irrelevant meaning.

Christensen himself highlights that companies like Uber, who many claim are disrupters in the market, are in fact not disrupters, but innovators.

To truly be disruptive, a smaller company does not set out to take its bigger rival's core customers, but target the niche demographics that exist at the lower end of the market and move upmarket to take share - very much like Netflix.

Netflix targeted a small customer base of movie fans and eventually rose to the top of the on-demand service offering, taking market share from their rivals.

So, why did I rewrite the title? 

When talking to companies about their business plans, project needs and the services they want / are offering the word ‘disrupt’ often arises and I think we need to realign our thinking early on. We get very few chances to truly disrupt an industry, but every opportunity at any point to completely redefine how customers engage, interact and connect with our products and services.

Facebook has redefined the way we view friends.

Netflix has redefined the way we consume television and film.

Uber has redefined the way we use public transport.

And Apple redefined the way we use technology.

Out of all the companies that we talk about in digital & design - Apple, Netflix, Uber, Tesla, Nest have all set out to do one thing, redefine the customer experience.

For me, to redefine the way we experience something is a far more powerful and positive way of looking at things than setting out with the intention to disrupt. Disruption and innovation may follow but first we have to activate change in a positive way. 

Redefining the way customers experience the digital world

Regardless of the technology used, the interfaces created or the way in which we interact with the product or service - every company who has positively redefined the experience a customer has, within the industry, have continued to be successful, see business growth and eventually been recognised for innovation or disruption in their market.

Socrates, the greek philosopher who many credit as being the founder of western philosophy once wrote: 

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

Redefining is redesigning 

I still see a lot of confusion surrounding the term ‘design’ - in particular, digital design.

Design no longer means the colours used or the fonts chosen, sure, this is aesthetic design, but as Steve Jobs once said:

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

To redefine customer experiences through digital we, as designers, have to truly understand, and thus rip apart the current expectations within an industry, product or service and focus on designing new experiences.

And by designers, I mean everyone involved; for everything in the material & digital world is designed.

To rethink the way a service is offered, or offer a new solution to make a process more efficient, the way a product looks or the way an app feels needs design, design-led thinking.

EVERYONE has the capacity to affect and activate ideas no matter how big or small their contribution or influence is, this is part of the design process, and starts at the beginning.

Redefining experiences requires a collaborative approach to a challenge, a team of people set on unified objectives with a clear understanding of the existing issues which face the customer, an approach with new rules of engagement and broad set of collaborators.

At Rawnet we involve a team made up of visionaries, idealists, realists, customers, clients, experienced professionals, technologists, creatives & strategists.

These people being in it together from the beginning means the results aren’t superficial or presumed, they are based on facts, experience & knowledge.

This way of working allows us to rapidly test options and investigate ideas, to think up new ways of doing things and offer new experiences. We have to be inquisitive and experimental in order to succeed.

Thomas Alva Edison, one of America's greatest inventors has inspired decades of design-led thinking, once said -

There’s a way to do it better . . . find it!

With the rapid speed of technological change and the increasing urgency from consumers to receive services and information in real time, we have had to learn how to be as agile as possible as a team, to work in unison with consumers and clients, to bring technology to the market which redefines the expectations of it’s audience.

Design-led thinking can lead to enormous growth and offer value to customers which they are yet to experience and we always aim to fuse design led thinking with commercial understanding to find a better way of doing it.

If the technology we create is one day regarded as disruptive or innovative that is a bonus, but for me, the biggest reward is knowing what we have created offers value to its users, and offers them a better experience.