‘Disruptive Innovation’ Should Be Your Pro AV Mantra

NSCA BLC speaker David Ricketts on disruptive innovation: AV pros relying on next big thing to keep them on top are likely in for a nasty surprise.

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There are a lot of companies in the AV space with decades of success under their belts. In many of those cases, the companies pride themselves on doing things “the way we’ve always done them.”

These days, though, doing things the same way you’ve always done them is essentially a death knell.

It’s time to start focusing on disruptive innovation.

Did you know that every decade for the past 50 years, the most popular technology for each decade has become obsolete?

The 8-track player gave way to cassette players, which then stepped aside for the Walkman. It wasn’t long before everyone had to have an MP3 player loaded with all their favorite songs, but now most people would rather stream music (although this writer hasn’t made the switch yet).

So, if your company is raking in the dough and selling millions—or even billions—of the “next big thing,” it’s time to cut bait as soon as possible, says David Ricketts from the Technology and Entrepreneur Center at Harvard University.

While that might seem counterintuitive, Ricketts told the crowd at the 2019 NSCA Business & Leadership Conference most executives get too attached to their once-in-a-lifetime innovations and wait too long to try to create the next one.

“Every company needs two COOs: a chief operating officer and a chief obsolescence officer,” says Ricketts.

“Disruption sounds bad, but it’s about trying to find a better way to do things. Innovation isn’t about technology; it’s about the value that technology brings to you.”

How to Create Disruptive Innovation

Technology sales has followed a similar pattern since the days of AM radio, says Ricketts, with early adopters jumping in right away and the trajectory eventually forming the familiar S-curve.

Disruptive Innovation

“That isn’t really innovation,” says Ricketts. Innovation, he says, consists at the intersection of insights and vision, but it also needs to provide value to customers and have leadership from someone within your organization to ensure its success.

“You’re providing the insight and the value that comes from putting the systems together,” says Ricketts.

“That comes from understanding the client needs they can’t speak of. But that’s not enough. You need something pushing you ahead so you’re the one who’s leading the disruption. You’re comping up with the products that change dramatically how we see the world.

“It is your task, your obligation to lead your people into the innovative world,” he says.

Disruptive innovation, says Ricketts, starts by “understanding the value not said by the user” through insight.

“If I go to a client and ask what they want, they’ll tell us and we’ll do it for them. We need innovation to try to figure out what they’re not telling us. It’s not about how we always thought about it. It’s about how we never thought about it,” he says.

Innovative thinkers look for opportunities their clients can’t tell them they want right now, he says.

“We want to talk about ideas that seem outrageous to get that vision,” says Ricketts.

“Business leaders get confused between trends and vision. Vision isn’t about seeing the road directly in front of you; it’s about imaging something completely different. What’s the way for innovators in your company to try something new and fail?”