October 1, 2016 / Strategy / Wise Talk

WiseTalk Summary on Embracing Disruption for a Competitive Advantage

On September  22, 2016, Sue Bethanis hosted Cat Lee, Head of Partner Marketing at Pinterest. Known as one of the most innovative shopping platforms in the world, Pinterest has revolutionized how people discover products and content, and how customers engage with businesses. Cat gave WiseTalk an insider’s view on how Pinterest has become an extremely disruptive social media powerhouse while building a marketplace of 100 million users.

Favorite Quote:

“Authenticity is about not holding back your point of view and saying what needs to be said in a skillful way with warmth and respect.” 

Insights:

On How Pinterest is a Disruptor in Advertising
At its core, “Pinterest is about exploration and discovery. The big opportunity for businesses on Pinterest is that there is no trade-off between the experience it provides to users and businesses.” Pinterest customers are open-minded to the ideas that come from businesses because they are native to the Pinterest experience. 75 percent of the ideas on Pinterest are from businesses because they are useful, actionable and relevant to users.

What’s unique about the Pinterest platform audience is the intent that can be modeled out based on user actions. The way that people search on Pinterest is based on exploration.  If you look at the consumer journey through a partner’s point of view (business), it closely resembles the marketing funnel. The consumer starts with casual browsing, then moves on to engagement (pinning), and then finally the consumer moves to the mindset of wanting to take action.

The Importance of Talent and Processes to Disruption
Cat believes it is important to focus on organizational health in addition to organizational smarts. Through both, you get efficiency and speed in how the teams can work together and ultimately disrupt the market.  A key component is communication. If all employees have the same information it empowers everyone to do their best and be in alignment of what’s most important to the company. Macro level processes helps teams go faster.

Cat also believes, “you are doing your best work when you are leveraging your strengths and making sure that they are well balanced.  You don’t need to worry about weaknesses as much as helping people to do their best work.”

What We Found Most Interesting:

  • The Four Values of Pinterest Knit: The best products come from “knitting,” where everyone works together— from engineering and design to marketing and community. Innovation happens when disciplines “knit” together.
  • Put Pinners First: If something doesn’t work for Pinners, it doesn’t work for Pinterest.
  • Go: The best way to find out if something works is to try it and learn as you go.
  • Be Authentic: Being honest and open (and sometimes saying the hard thing) is a core value.

To learn more about Cat Lee and her thoughts on disruption, listen to the WiseTalk recording.

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August 30, 2016 / Strategy / Wise Talk

WiseTalk Summary on the Disruption Dilemma

On August 18, 2016, Sue Bethanis hosted economist, Joshua Gans, the Jeffrey Skoll Chair in Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto and author of The Disruption Dilemma. Gans discussed his new research on innovation theory and the range of actions that leaders can take to deal with disruption.

Favorite Quote:

The disruption dilemma is “do we go for gold now or do we settle for silver every year?”

Insights:

  • Why do companies that are at the top of their game seem to get into trouble with disruptive innovations? Successful firms have trouble deciding what path to pursue because at first, their customers reject innovation, but eventually they begin to embrace it and the new entrant becomes a real business threat. That creates a real dilemma for an established firm.
  • Sometimes something new comes along that in addition to being innovative, is put together in a new and completely different way. Blackberry is an excellent example of this supply side disruption. They just didn’t have the right organization to be able to do what Apple and Samsung were doing. Often, the incumbents are handicapped by the operation and structure that made them successful.
  • You need to pay attention to the warning signs: A) a new product comes along and your organization dismisses it without evaluation, and/or B) situations where different parts of an organization have no idea what other parts of the organization are doing.

Tips for managing supply-side innovation:

  1. Your customers don’t know everything: You need to be actively monitoring new technologies and keep track of what’s going to be the next thing. You need to be strategic and anticipate the needs of the future.
  2. Acquire new disruptive entrants: Most firms have dealt with innovation by buying the firms that bring the new innovation to market. You must not only acquire them, but you also need to absorb them and their way of thinking and doing. Developing procedures is one way to make these acquisitions successful.
  3. Have very focused teams on rapid innovation and improvement: There is a cost to this, as you might have a very short time at the top of the industry, but there is the potential to make a lot of money in the short-term.
  4. Choose the life of the firm: By sacrificing rapid innovation you can lag a bit behind. This does come with a cost as you won’t have as many sales and you won’t be the leader in your industry. But, doing so will make your organization more flexible by breaking up silos and making sure that people rotate across teams. This doesn’t guarantee that a company will survive the next big disruption, but it does increase the odds quite a bit.

What we found most interesting:

Do you want to be gold or silver? Historically, when you choose to be gold you are choosing to be there for a short period of time. When thinking about disruptive threats, it is worthwhile to bring different parts of your organization together to identify and decide how you will deal with them.

To learn about Joshua’s theory and research on disruptive change, and more interesting insights about companies that have fallen to disruptive innovation, listen to the recording here.

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