This is the third and last blog in our series of three, taken from the recent keynote on Disruption that our colleague Matthijs Rosman held at the annual conference of the international office supply industry. 

 The series consists of three parts:

  1. Introduction to disruption and the disruption process
  2. Any industry can be disrupted and disruption’s leading indicators
  3. Strategies to counter disruption or become a disrupter yourself


How to respond when faced with disruption?

Don’t become the dodo

Let’s go back to the 16th century. When Dutch sailors discovered the island of Mauritius, the Dodo had its first encounter with humans. The gullible, flightless bird wandered onto the ships of the Dutch merchants only to be captured and eaten by the starving sailors. 

The Dodo saw no danger and did not sense any. His cluelessness was his demise.

Resist – the case of Donald Trump

Another pattern of response can be learned from Donald Trump’s reaction to his loss of the presidency in the US. He fights the outcome, becomes vigilant. Sends in the lawyers to dispute the matter.

The business world

We see the same things happening in the business world. Business leaders ignore the signs of disruption at first. When they start to feel the effects of disruption either through loss of market share or erosion of profits they react fiercely. 

After a short period of mourning, they start questioning the legality of the disruptors business practices. Lawsuits follow. Sometimes even violence. In many cases we see boycotts. 

When you are forced in this situation you are already fighting an uphill battle. Hopefully your deep pockets help you survive.


So, what would be a better response? Our answer would be to take matters into your own hands. Innovate your way out of this crisis!

innovation lab

Four strategies in coping with innovators

1. Open up!

This may sound counterintuitive but open your business up to potential disruptors. Open the doors for startups who may one day shape up to become your competitors. Give them access to your infrastructure and resources. Better to keep you (potential) enemy close and learn from them!

2. Take them out!

Buy a disruptor! Combine your strengths with those of the disruptor and build new value. Be aware that you leave enough room for them to grow and flourish and do not suffocate them. [Beeline example]

3. Copy fast!

Copy the business model of the disruptor fast and use your market presence and strength to beat them to the punch. Be aware that in a simple copy action you may lose the actual customer need you are trying to address. It can be hit or miss. [Microsoft copying Netscape]

4. Outperform them!

Become a better innovator than the disruptor. By adopting a mindset of continuous innovation, you leave no room for disruptors. Disrupt yourself! Apply the same principles of disruption to your own business. Netflix has done it when moving from mail order to streaming and then onto content production.

The Reality Check

75% of companies are not satisfied with their innovation capabilities. Wanna know where you stand: Participate in the Innovation Readiness Benchmark.

Get your innovation game in order! Wanna know how? Download the Innovation Playbook.

In Conclusion

Any industry can be disrupted … multiple times

Keep your eyes open for the signs


Nile Rodgers: “Don’t get complacent and never believe your own hype!”