The Constant Need for Disruption

I have a set of favourite companies that I always seem to use as examples of pioneers in marketing and business. They are the traditional namesakes; Tesla, Apple, Uber etc. Though one business stands above the rest for me, and that is Netflix.

Netflix has in its short lifetime, had to disrupt itself and its market three times, and I’m sure their next disruption is already in the pipeline;


1) They mailed DVD’s out when their competitors were investing in physical spaces.

Remember the days of spending hours in the local Blockbuster trying to find a compromise with your friends on what movie to watch? Netflix decided in investing in an online portal that took the guesswork out of picking the next movie you wanted to watch and mailed it to you; with no late fees!

Netflix believed that the trade of time versus convenience in addition to curated content would be where the market headed next.


2) Netflix then pioneered online streaming, when their competitors were investing in physical spaces.

How wild is it that Netflix was making revenues from other companies’ content for $7 month, giving you access to unlimited movies while their competitors invited you into their stores to come pick out a movie for $5.99 – that if not returned the next day, cost you late fees?

Netflix believed that the future was in streaming content online, so they made a dramatic push into this space.


3) Netflix finally realized that using other companies’ content was not going to last long because these companies wanted to make this money for themselves; so they started making their own content.

Netflix believed that they needed to become content creators, and that the access they had to consumer data would allow them to create content that their customers would want to see.

Over the course of a short while, Netflix has consistently been countless steps ahead of their competitors (which have changed over the years as well) and their industry. They moved into the content creation game before anyone realized that this was how media distribution companies needed to differentiate themselves in the future.


And so, what can we learn from Netflix – other than how to create great content like House of Cards? We can learn that the industry we’re competing in right now, will not be the same in five years. Even here in Saskatchewan, we’re not safe from being disrupted and that goes for every industry; no one is safe.

  • How does a mall compete with the ease of purchase and distribution people find on the web pages of their tenants?
  • How should traditional furniture companies compete with the ability for 3D printers to print our living rooms?
  • How do the local sports teams compete with the recent developments of online communities that allow people to follow teams from all over the world while giving them a local experience?
  • How do traditional advertising agencies compete with the creative tools and access to information that potential clients or freelancers have access to?

Let’s start considering the opportunity that lays before us; if we know that our industry is going to be disrupted, spend some time thinking about what’s going to be changing over the next five – ten years. How can we take advantage of this inevitable change, and be at the front end of the wave, leading our respective industries?

We don’t have to fear drowning in a sea of change if we’re the ones making the waves.

It’s about thinking long term, planning, and adapting. The choice is ours, and I’m confident that together, we can disrupt ourselves and our industries much like Netflix. And if we don’t like that option there’s always Blockbuster.


Tell us what you think.