Technology doesn't drive disruption. Experience does.

I recently read an article that sparked an epiphany. The writer outlined his post-work routine: First, he ordered a Lyft to go home. While in the Lyft, he listened to a Spotify playlist. When he got home, he found a box from Chewy on his doorstep. (“Santa was here” in dog-speak!)

Unboxing the Chewy package was as entertaining as always: dog food, treats and SQUEAKY TOYS!  So he left his delighted dog to attend a workout he booked earlier in the day using ClassPass. Before leaving the gym, he ordered dinner through Doordash and met the driver at his front door as he arrived back home.

Most of us would describe these companies as disruptors. And many of us would lean into the notion that technology is the basis for why they’re disruptive. 

But the epiphany I had was that what’s disruptive about all of these companies is NOT the technology. It’s the experience and interjection of the experience into the customer value chain. 

Hailing a cab was never an activity that was considered very difficult. In most cases, all you had to do was walk out to the curb and raise your hand. (Or call a taxi company and have one meet you at your address.)  

But enter Uber, and our thoughts on hailing a ride completely changed. Why did we like the Uber experience so much? They were clean cars. You could see where your ride was on a map. You knew how long the trip would take and exactly how much it would cost. You didn’t have to handle cash. They seemed safer. Heck, we were so pleased with the experience we were even willing to pay “surge pricing” during busy times.

The same can be said for all of the “disruptive” companies that have popped up along the edges of a customer journey –  like Birchbox, StitchFix, Warby Parker, and lululemon’s acquisition of MIRROR.  

What these companies all have in common is not their tech but their ability to fundamentally change their customers’ wants,  behaviors, and ultimately their needs.  They have reshaped how we expect to interact with a company from purchase through delivery. It’s that insight, then supercharged and brilliantly realized, operationalized, and scaled through empowering technology.

Clayton Christensen, the guru of ‘disruptive innovation,’ brilliantly identified that transformative innovation comes through building products and services for ‘the job to be done.’ These companies identified day-to-day jobs that were being done poorly and designed better, frictionless experiences and processes that reach deeper into and perhaps expand expectations across the customer value chain.

Product developers often get too focused on building customer personas and looking for correlations in data to identify demand. But as these companies have demonstrated, disruption comes from a deep understanding of customer choice in a way that no amount of data can reveal. They’ve uncovered the causal driver behind a purchase and applied a laser focus to understanding the job needed to be done. 

This insight into customers’ jobs allows companies to differentiate the experience of their offering in ways their competitors aren’t likely to copy—or even comprehend. 

Over the next five years, I believe experience-driven disruption and change will escalate. Frankly, the pandemic and subsequent economic fallout have revealed many problems to be solved, jobs that could be done a lot better with a lot less effort.  

Disruptive innovations will consider the impact Covid has had on our day-to-day lives and create a new value chain. They will reframe norms. They will create new business models, drive new lines of business, and inspire new ways of working based upon the next iteration of jobs to be done.  

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