Bike sharing community Martin Tod/Flickr

Creative Self-Disruption

Companies like Uber, Apple, and Airbnb have succeeded by exploiting a fundamental trend affecting nearly all industries: individual empowerment through the Internet, app technology, digitalization, and social media. If traditional firms hope to remain competitive, they must follow suit.

LAGUNA BEACH – Like many readers, I still vividly recall when Nokia was the dominant player in mobile phones, with over 40% of the market, and Apple was just a computer company. I remember when Amazon was known only for books, and when dirty taxis or high-priced limousines were the only alternative to public transport or my own car. And I recall when the Four Seasons, Ritz Carltons, and St. Regises of this world competed with one another – not with Airbnb.

Now, I may be old, but I am not that old. These changes happened recently – and fast. How did they occur? Will the pace of change remain so rapid – or even accelerate further? And how should companies respond?

An industry can be transformed by top-down economic, financial, political, and regulatory changes. But companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, and Uber exemplify a different kind of transformation: agile players invade other, seemingly unrelated industries and brilliantly exploit huge but previously unseen opportunities. Importantly and counter-intuitively, doing so serves their own core competencies, rather than those of the industry that they seek to disrupt.

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