Running from Fast Disruptors?

By now, we’ve heard the warnings a million times. Our Netflix is coming. Our Uber, our BuzzFeed. Fast disruptors – companies with business models, customer interfaces and innovation so new, bold and outrageous that they lay waste to the traditional competition – are a source of great anxiety in every industry. If you’re a credit union, multiply that anxiety by ten. This industry self-identifies as neither fast nor disruptive. Hearing that a Netflix-shaped threat may be rocketing toward your market is scary news indeed. Who are these fast disruptors? How do you disarm them?

1. They Come From Nowhere

Markets have always evolved over time, with one product or way of doing business being supplanted by another. What makes fast disruptors different is their speed and stealth. In an excellent New Yorker last July, write Jill Lepore described the fast disruption process this way: "[It's] like a plane that takes off without you, except that you didn't even know there was a plane, and had wandered onto the airfield, which you thought was a meadow, and the plane ran you over during takeoff."

How to disarm: Look up. Even the fastest disruptors don't come literally from nowhere. What are the pain points in your business? Who's solving them better than you?

2. They Approach Consumer
Need with a Fresh Eye

Subscribe to SoundCloud and you'll never buy an album again. You may also never again touch the albums you've already purchased. Even your iTunes account may gather dust. Why? SoundCloud gives you instant access to just about any song, anywhere you and your smartphone may be. Want to listen to little Men Without Hats today? It won't cost you an additional cent, which is good, because who wants to pay for that?

How to disarm: Make it your business to provide the wow. Sure, it's great to cover the basics. But look for ways to make what you do instantly more valubale.

3. They Use Smart Technology

Daniel Levitin, author of The Organized Mind, notes on Forbes.com that just ten years ago all of the available information occupied an estimated 30 exabytes. Today, it's 300 exabytes. What's an exabyte? You don't need to know, because in just a few nanoseconds your smartphone can tell you. Ordinary humans have superhuman powers because of technology. Fast disruptors harness those powers.

How to disarm: Your technology simply cannot be too good. Make it fast, powerful, omniscient, simple, streamlined, integrated and fluten free - then turn up the heat.

4. They Aren't Sentimental

The new payments frontier is notoriously fragmented. Upstarts can't agree on POS technology, payment rails, user interfac, or basically anything else. What can they agree on? They dislike the status quo. They can't wait to get rid of cards, interchange, competing technology - you name it. These disruptors are a threat because they're unafraid to discard everything about traditional payments.

How to disarm: Don't underestimate the power of being great. New competitors can't be sentimental about the past because they have no history. You do. And while you can' afford to be sentimental about things like payments technology you can use your history and organizational strength to underscore your longstanding value. Be the bridge between what is and what's to come.