Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Early Hat Tricks and Disruption

If you watched the FIFA Women's World Cup on Sunday, you witnessed an event. Carli Lloyd of the U.S. team managed to score three goals in the first sixteen minutes for the first hat trick in Women's World Cup history, and a faster hat trick than any in the Men's World Cup as well. Augmented by an additional score from her teammate Lauren Holiday, the last goal put the U.S. up 4-0 over Japan. The momentum of that quick start gave the  United States team what it needed to roll to a 5-2 victory at the end of the match and their third World Cup title.

The amazing speed and positioning of those first four scores made me think of how that would affect competition in industry. I know sports analogies don't always translate perfectly, since competition in the world is often multi-headed, and the referee keeping time does not exist, but in this instance, I thought it definitely illustrated the effect of an overwhelming early show of force in disrupting the opponents.

Being first to market can be a powerful force in establishing brand identity and loyalty, almost as much as a truly superior product can. But those that are first to market with a strong product offering double their chances to solidify a lead over the competition. Just like Japan struggled to overcome such a massive lead, so too do business competitors playing copycat or catch-up to the disruptors.

Take this analysis of Uber and Airbnb, both of which turned traditional service offerings into peer-to-peer services. The incredible rapid growth (as shown in the charts in that article and my recreation of their Airbnb's listings growth chart) came from both offering an innovative product to a welcoming market, but also from being first to do so. A competitor trying to compete in 2015 has to now persuade the half of a billion individuals who listed last year that their product is so superior that it warrants a switch. It's a much tougher sell once someone is hooked. That is why incumbents must work harder than ever to make whatever service they provide as sticky as possible to their customers to try as best they can to insulate against disruptive forces. But, when facing a truly new and innovative solution, the disruption can be too great, leaving the incumbent and other competitors on their heels and trying to catch up.

What disruptive force do you see coming next? Is it new technology (SDN, IoT, Self-Driving Cars) or a traditional service offered in a non-traditional way? Let me know in a comment or note what you think.

Soccer ball image credit: Andy03 via Pixabay