Vive La Revolution! (Bastille-inspired post on Disruption)


I posted on the 5 Essentials of Disruption a few months ago and I’m revisiting the subject because something brilliant is happening, which I think we’ll see more of. Several industries are seeing the potential for a revolution, through disruptive services, and ways of designing and delivering them.

Disruption is happening at the development / product / service level and it’s making the marketing world a really interesting place.  What’s more, it’s underpinning the maxim that marketing is, and should be, ingrained in the business strategy…and it’s heartening that we are seeing that.  So what’s happening?  Here are what I think are some of the most exciting examples:

Disruptive Service

The retail banking world is in for a shake-up later this month when Metro Bank launches in London.  It’s the first high-street banking brand to be launched in over 100 years and from the very outset they are disrupting the status quo.  Bucking the trend of recent years, Metro Bank wants their customers to visit their branches, and they can do that 7 days a week.  They also want their clients to have fun and aim to deliver a genuine experience on every visit. Kids will be entertained with lollipops and coin-counting machines, pens will be unchained and free, dogs even will get biscuits, apparently.

Plans are pretty ambitious too – 4 sites are due to open this year, and a further 10 in 2011.  It remains to be seen how much of a success this will be, but what’s fascinating is the ballsy ambition to act less like a bank and be, first and foremost, a service and experience provider.

Disruptive Product and Delivery

Call Britannia was launched in 2009 with the aim of creating 10, 000 jobs across Britain for the unemployed, by providing training ‘incubators’ whereby skills acquisition and personal development are put to the forefront, resulting in trained and motivated staff for on-shore call centres. Karen Darby, who founded Call Britannia, is not, by nature, one to simply accept the status quo. The proposition to businesses unashamedly challenges the trend for offshore call centre staff and combining this with the benefit of a greater social good being achieved.  It’s not for everyone – and Call Britannia know that – but their bold intentions are very much in tune with growing customer frustration at non-UK call centre service, and now the need for jobs in UK.

Disruptive Development

Probably one of the most high-profile examples of disruptive activity is Diaspora, the “privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network”. Disruptive in 2 major ways – first, it aims to ‘decentralise the web’ by providing aggregation of information without surrendering privacy, at a time when Facebook in particular had sparked a public debate (and much negative feeling) about online privacy and ownership of information. Second, Diaspora is ‘crowdfunded’ via Kickstarter – and it clearly struck a chord.  6479 backers pledged over $200 000 (the original aim was a more modest $10 000) within the space of a few months. Taking on the big boys is a bold move, but was perfectly timed.

The “so what?”

  • What all of these examples have in common is that they have tapped into a mood – not a business trend or economic direction, but a human, consumer/user-driven mood. They are responding to people and what’s bugging them.
  • They’re originals.  They’re not following a tried-and-tested route, or adhering to conventional wisdom.
  • They have a clear mission that’s beyond a business objective and which will remain at their core. In each case, it’s to do with making people’s lives better and easier.
  • They’re bold.

The trick for all of these revolutionaries now will be to stay with the mood that they have identified and reacted to, and to ensure that they continue to connect with it as the world changes.. and as the needs and priorities of the people change too.  We’re rooting for them. Vive la revolution!

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London. Follow on Twitter for more like this, in tasty bite-sized pieces.

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