For most CEOs, disruptive technologies are a curse, threatening to shake up the status quo and potentially create change – a scary prospect. When you’re the CEO of a massive optical networking company known for development and innovation, disruption is something to be embraced.
In the IT world, the philosophy of “adapt or die” is one of the only constants, and it’s a principle that has helped Ciena Corporation to evolve and grow stronger for decades. CEO Gary Smith recently discussed the concept of disruption in an article penned for Techonomy, highlighting why business leaders and innovators need to embrace disruptive trends and technologies or risk becoming obsolete.
Smith outlined the three major types of disruption and their benefits and consequences. Adjacent disruption is one of the more common offensive types of disruption. Since few companies are willing to disrupt their own core businesses, most target adjacent markets. Netflix producing original content is a Prime example of this (and we can’t discount Amazon, which seems to be in a constant state of adjacent disruption). While these types of bold moves can lead to big time success, they are ultimately low risk with regard to a company’s core business activities.
Leap disruption is another category and a bit bolder. This category encompasses inventions and creative development, leading to the launch of new industries and even brand new business models. This encompasses major stuff, like the invention of antibiotics, electricity and the telephone.
The final category is known as platform disruption, through which a technology innovation makes a big splash, but ultimately ends up impacting an entire business model. For instance, the recent uptake in virtualization for networking functions, coupled with open source software, is essentially creating a “utility platform” that will ultimately disrupt a host of legacy business models. Cloud computing, software-defined networking (SDN) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are all driving constant connectivity, giving way to this wide scale platform disruption.
“The result is a paradigm of rapid innovation and hybrid business models that enables powerful new trends such as the sharing economy, collaborative consumption, and what in many cases can be called ‘pay to access,’ where the value chain is effectively collapsed into a thin layer that essentially matches sellers to buyers,” wrote Smith.
Ciena, for one, is embracing platform disruption by providing infrastructure technologies to build next-generation networks. According to Smith, it was a natural evolution for the company, which has always taken a disruptive approach to networking and technology. He sees a number of emerging technologies that will take advantage of “platform disruption,” including 3D printing, AI, renewable energy and robotics.
With the IT landscape changing at such a rapid pace, innovators and developers really have no choice but to embrace disruption. And while change may seem scary or uncomfortable to many C-level executives, the prospect of being left behind may ultimately be more frightening.
Edited by Maurice Nagle