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What Is Disruptive Innovation? - Learn the 7 Traits of a Disrupter

Evolving technology, shifting markets and new legislation have disrupted the business landscape—and will continue to do so. Disruptive innovation is risky business, but it can also revolutionize technology, business models and markets.

What makes for an effective business disruptor? How can you lead the next wave of disruptive change? This article explains the traits of a successful disruptor and how to become one.

What Is Disruptive Innovation?

Disruptive innovation transforms existing business structures to create new products and services accessible to a broader market, according to Investopedia.

“Being a disrupter is not just understanding the market. It’s understanding an opportunity within the market that no one else is leveraging,” says Alok Chaturvedi, professor of management at Purdue University. “It means figuring out creative ways not just to solve problems for the end user but to give yourself a market advantage.”

Chaturvedi explains that disruption is a process, and the first step is observation.

“Observe your customers. What are their pain points? What are their challenges? When you understand this, then you can find the right kind of technological solutions to help them overcome them,” says Chaturvedi. “The process of disruption involves taking your idea and moving it upmarket, until you are confronting the established leaders in your industry and changing the system itself.”

What Are the Traits of a Disrupter?

Companies need disruptors—those who question how things are done and test strategies, products and services against the existing market. These are the people who aren’t afraid to find a new way of working to drive commercial growth. Without such employees, many businesses will fail.

Chaturvedi shared his list of the seven traits of a disrupter:

1. Entrepreneurial Mindset

Forbes describes an entrepreneurial mindset as “a way of thinking that enables you to seek out problems others have not solved, create potential solutions, overcome challenges, be decisive and accept responsibility for your outcomes.” It equips successful disruptors to recognize opportunities and take initiative.

“Having an entrepreneurial mindset really helps with your observational skills,” Chaturvedi says. “It enables you to ask, where is my next opportunity? What can I do? What is going to be different? What can I disrupt?”

2. Risk Taking

If you want to be a disruptor, you have to be a risk taker. Fear of change and non-traditional ideas kill innovation.

“There is a difference between taking risks and being reckless, however,” Chaturvedi notes. “How do you take calculated risk? How can you discount the failures? And how can you put a premium on success? To successfully manage risk is to understand the range of possible outcomes and the implications of each one.”

>>Read More: What Is Change Management and How Does It Work?

3. Vision

A strong vision is paramount. It gives direction and purpose to your goals.

“Have a vision of where you want to go,” Chaturvedi says. “Recognize the need for change and formulate a plan for supporting that vision.”

4. Agility

Agility is the ability to move fast, to pivot and react quickly to whatever change is happening and to learn quickly as you go.

“Fail fast, scale fast,” Chaturvedi says. “If you're trying something, if it works, scale it up. And if it is not working, throw it away.”

5. Persistence

"Energy and persistence conquer all things," said Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. The world’s most successful disruptors share persistence as one of their key characteristics.

“If you have a good idea and it’s new, it may not be successful right away,” Chaturvedi says. “Keep at it and adjust. This also involves risk taking and agility.”

6. Creativity’s definition of “creativity” fits well with the concept of disruptive innovation: “The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.” This is a mandatory quality for disruptors.

“You have to observe and think about people’s problems and how you can solve them creatively,” he says. “You must transcend the current market constraints and be open to fundamentally new and untested ideas.”

7. Understanding

“To have deep understanding means to recognize and comprehend all the relationships and linkages in your industry,” Chaturvedi says. “You have to be intellectually curious and use your deep understanding to find untapped opportunities in the market.”

Earn an MBA That Will Help You Acquire the Skills to Lead Change

The Purdue Online MBA program helps you develop the analytical, strategic and problem-solving expertise you need to be a successful disruptor and innovator.

“As a program, we embrace challenges and new technologies,” Chaturvedi says. “We embrace them, and we bring these things to our students so they can learn and adapt.

“We are the disrupters we expect our students to be.”

The Purdue Online MBA offers two specializations that may appeal to aspiring disruptors:

  • Leadership, Negotiation and Change Management
  • Innovation and Technology Commercialization

Reach out today to learn more about the Purdue Online MBA program and how it can help you reach your career goals.

If you would like to receive more information about pursuing a business master’s at the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, please fill out the form and a program specialist will be in touch!

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