Much is made of the "disruptors" -- business leaders who change the status quo by innovating and changing the way people think, work and live. People like Travis Kalanick who created Uber and turned the taxi industry on its head; or Marc Benioff who co-founded Salesforce and introduced a whole new way for businesses to operate using the cloud; Elon Musk who is revolutionizing transportation, both with cars with Tesla Motors and into space with SpaceX; and Jeff Bezos who founded Amazon and changed the way people shop.
While most entrepreneurs may never make it their way onto a list of top disruptors, there are certain things that they can do to start thinking like these innovators. The first step is to adopt the following mantra: become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Every disruptive leader -- including those listed above -- certainly took risks that were uncomfortable at times. While some thrive on the element of uncertainty that comes with taking a chance, others feel like risk is akin to walking on a tightrope without a net -- nothing and nobody to catch you if you take a misstep and fall.
Changing this perspective is all about accepting risk and becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Here are three ways to start:
1. Learn to adapt to customer needs and wants. Customer expectations are shifting. By 2020, it's projected that customer experience will overtake price and product as a brand differentiator. Companies are now expected to deliver personalized, one-to-one real-time, intelligent experiences and customers expect comparable experiences online and offline and 24/7 service, and it's only going to increase.
In fact, according to the State of Service Report by Salesforce Research, it's expected that inbound service requests will increase more than 20 per cent across mobile app, mobile chat, and social networks over the next year. With this spike in online service interactions, business leaders should anticipate a similar uptick in technology to manage this inbound volume. Embedded mobile video chat, offline mobile cases, and social media monitoring to enable customer service will grow exponentially. It may take you out of your comfort zone, but it's imperative that you listen and adapt to their needs.
2. Learn to embrace new technology. Companies won't be able to grow and adapt to changing customer needs unless they are using technologies that are native to this new connected world. With more customers doing business on the go, whenever it suits their schedules and needs, it's imperative to have the technology in place to serve them. Better yet, stay one step ahead of their needs and wants by investing in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution to manage all of your company's relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers.
With a CRM strategy, every customer, lead, service request, customer preference and conversation is housed in one place, in real-time, so you can anticipate their needs and not just respond to them. The State of Service Report found 86 per cent of executives believe technological change will take place at an unprecedented rate over the next three years. Those businesses that don't keep up with technology not only fall behind, but they run the risk of becoming irrelevant, or even worse, obsolete.
3. Learn to let go of control. Leaders have the tendency to want to control everything, but part of embracing change is delegating tasks and responsibilities to others on the team. Let people's ideas bubble to the top and give them a try. And while leaders tend to want to stick to their convictions, remember that your way isn't always the right way. Learn from your employees, your competitors and your customers and be open to their new ways of thinking. Not only will it give you new insights, it will put you right on trend in terms of leadership style, as the days of the "heroic leader" are in decline, and those of "collective leadership" are on the rise.
Change isn't easy, but in order to succeed in today's hypercompetitive business environment, it is absolutely necessary. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable doesn't mean throwing away everything you already do and starting from scratch, but it does mean taking steps to open yourself up to a new way of thinking, which just might lead to transformative innovation and ultimately take your business to the next level. As any disruptive leader would tell you, the future really does favour the bold.
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