TL; DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Disruptors win because they have a superior mindset that focuses on not giving a fuck, fighting the people they hate and aggressively pursuing great wealth.
This blog is a ‘tell it as it really is’ insight into what disruptors really think, feel and do. It’s a reaction to this video which got me very pissed off up because I could not believe how detached the speaker is from today’s disrupted reality. This speaker doesn’t understand disruption and if you buy into what he is saying then you’re company is definitely going to die because you don’t get it either. The purpose of this post is to help you ‘get it’; to understand how disruptors approach things. Why? When you know your enemy, you have a better chance of beating them. So, pour yourself a drink, put on this song to evoke the disruptor ‘spirit’ and listen up.
Incumbents are supposed to work with regulators to define the status quo of an industry. What actually happens is ‘regulatory capture’, the phenomena whereby incumbents actually make the regulator serve their needs instead of the regulator protecting the consumer and market. The total failure of the British and US Financial Service Authorities to protect the world from financial apocalypse in 2008 is a good example of banks capturing their regulator. What actually happens is that incumbents use regulators to kill innovation and stop new entrants from taking market share, thereby creating stagnant environments were the incumbents maximises profit over everyone and everything else. The appalling level of service from taxis around the world is another good example of this as the taxi mafia (used to) dominate city hall world-wide (more examples here). However, there’s a problem for incumbents: disruptors don’t give a fuck about regulators.
Disruptors don’t care what regulators think because they focus on doing their own thing. They just don’t give a fuck. This ‘zero fucks given’ attitude is something incumbents cannot do or even understand. For example, Uber (transport), Airbnb (travel) and Transferwise (international payments). Taxis, hotels and banks are running around crying because they are being disrupted and yet the regulators are usually unsympathetic… Why?
The problem for incumbents is that they have forgotten that regulators serve the consumer, NOT the incumbent. Therefore, when the disruptors create something so goddamn awesome that totally redefines the industry (e.g. Uber) then regulators re-align themselves to the disruptor. Regulators have always known that global taxi business is a giant mafia scam but have lacked the power to do anything about it. That’s why most cities actually welcome Uber; it breaks the taxi mafia, finally provides long-suffering consumers with great transport and reduces congestion. Big win for City Hall.
Rule number 1 for thinking like a disruptor: Forget the rules, create your own then get others to support your way of doing things.
Disruptors fucking hate you (not you, the incumbent firms)
True story; Uber was founded because its co-founders were partying in Paris and couldn’t get a taxi for love or money. Having been in a similar situation myself I can tell you that it’s true, taxis are impossible in Paris let alone late at night. Immensely frustrated, they discussed the idea of a driver-on-demand service and Uber was born.
It’s important to note that what drove them to create Uber was their intense frustration at the taxi-travel reality. Not a clever business plan, not billions of investment, instead it was pure and simple RAGE at the incompetence and injustice of the way taxis served customers. In other words, the founders were fucking pissed-off and decided to do something about it.
Most disruptors are driven by a deeply felt ‘mission’; a profound desire to ‘beat the goddamn system and build a better world’. It is important to understand that this is pure rage, a deep hate for what exists and a burning passion and desire to build something better. They live, breathe and burn to beat the incumbents. They are on the warparth to break the old system and build a new, better one in their own image.
We can see examples of this phenomena in Apple, SpaceX and Tesla; companies driven by visionaries who demand a better world and will fight to the death to make it happen. Incumbents don’t understand this rage because the truth is that they don’t really give a shit. For example, the leaders at most banks don’t really give a shit about their customers or consumers. How do I know this? Because if you care then you create. When you really care about something you are compelled to create a better world for it. All we get is excuses about ‘what’s not possible’. There is no fire, no desire, no sincerity in ‘building a better world’ and that is why the disruptors fucking hate you.
Rule number 2 for thinking like a disruptor: Find what you care about and fight to the death for it.
Disruptors want to get fucking rich
Just because they are driven by their mission doesn’t mean disruptors don’t want to get paid. They do, big time. For them, getting paid is much more than earning money, it’s a way of keeping score, money is a measure of their success. I repeat, they aren’t earning money because they want a nicer car, they want to ‘win’ the game of life by getting the high score and scores are measured in millions and billions of dollars.
Disruptors want to get fucking rich and the way they are going to get there is by stealing market share from the incumbents. They think incumbents are too slow and ignorant to fight back (which is usually true) and, therefore, focus on growing as fast as possible. They don’t compete with incumbents because they know the incumbent CAN’T compete (do you really think taxis can compete with Uber?). Instead it’s all about go-go growth. Highly aggressive and focused on massive growth, disruptors are single-minded in pursuing the high-score of life.
Rule number 3 for thinking like a disruptor: Focus on explosive growth that rapidly captures market share.
Today we lived in a disrupted world; the confluence of globalisation, Gen Y and accelerating technologies. There are a lot of disruptors with the above mindset and many, many more will emerge in the next 5 years. To survive, incumbents will have to fight them and win, adopting the disruptor mindset can help them (you) do that.