From blockchain to AI, technology is being used to disrupt existing business models and create new ones seemingly overnight. This evolving landscape is shaping our attitudes and values, challenging the very purpose of a company, and presenting a massive opportunity for those with the vision and means to act.
So how do we as individuals become more disruptive? How do we create a network and take our ideas to market? And what will the advancement of technology mean for the future? Entrepreneur and disruptor Lulu Laidlaw-Smith shares her thoughts and experience with the next generation of brand owners.
How to cultivate a disruptive attitude
My opinion is that you’re born with a disruptive attitude. For many years, I was told that I was disruptive (in a negative way). I would ask questions because I could see solutions that were not yet applied. There is a naivety to asking what might seem like obvious questions and finding out why things happen in a particular way. Some people give up their disruptive attitude and stop asking questions as they accept the status quo out of politeness and socialisation.
It’s difficult to stand up against this, especially for people who have the ideas but don’t have the funding or the connections to make them happen. This is one reason why I founded Rip It Up, Start Again. I wanted to create a community to promote discovery and connection. It’s hosted at Runway East in London, UK and live-streamed to audiences globally. The platform enables entrepreneurs to share their business ideas and demonstrate how they have developed unique technology-driven solutions that disrupt the status quo.
The difference between innovation and disruption
These terms are often used interchangeably. However, innovation is a consequence and a delivery of something that needs to change, while disruption creates that change. Disruption is much more dramatic. It’s looking at an existing business models and wondering how to deliver it more succinctly rather than refining what is already there. This is a large part of my work with Collaborate²; transforming good ideas into smart business, leading business transformation on an actionable scale through defining the message for multiple user groups.
I recently spoke to a young entrepreneur who is working to eradicate food waste. I remarked that he will no longer have a business if he is successful. He looked at me like this was an archaic way of thinking and then explained how he would simply do something else. He was right. Times have changed and the disruptive attitude is to create a business model that serves a purpose now, regardless of how it might develop in the future.
What makes us human: Imagination, communication and collaboration
Humans are brilliant at imagination, communication and collaboration. But we are bad at compliance, planning and organisation. These are the areas where entrepreneurs can use technology to make a difference. When people say that technology will take away our ability to create, this feeds the fear and leads to resentment.
In my opinion, the most exciting change with the strongest potential for delivery is blockchain. Instead of being only a ledger for finance, I believe it will deliver so much more: it will remove friction from our interactions, allowing us to spend time doing what we are good at and automating the rest. It will fundamentally challenge how companies are structured and will help us to build true civilizational wealth.
Find people to inspire you along the way
One of my main inspirations is my friend and mentor Steve Kelsey. He understands emotional engagement as well as having an aptitude for technology, which is unusual. I am inspired by Elon Musk for the same reasons. I am also in awe of the many entrepreneurs that I have met through Rip It Up, Start Again. Tom Blomfield from Monzo was one of our early speakers. I respect him for taking on the banking industry having never worked in mainstream banking. His journey of getting a banking license also illustrates how disruptive companies can still succeed against all odds.
Technology has the answers, but the problem for many start-ups is compliance. As long as you keep ahead of the game, things will happen regardless. I think we will see technology disrupting areas like politics, economics and law in a more significant way that we imagine. I believe technology will ultimately allow us to use our imagination and ability to communicate by taking away the tasks that we as humans are not good at. It will give us the freedom to be who we are without making apologies or excuses. How can you prepare for these changes? Attend events, read articles, talk to disruptive people, keep an open mind – and, above all, keep asking questions.
About the Author
Lulu Laidlaw-Smith is an experienced sales and commercial director. She is the Founder of Rip It Up, Start Again, a platform that gives a voice to disruptors and innovators. She is also working with the video storytelling platform Binumiand is a partner at Collaborate, a business strategy and transformation agency that accelerates growth for this ever-evolving landscape, implementing strategy into real solutions.