Insights | Customer Experience

Disruption 2020. Opportunity 2021.

Disruption is a business model threat and opportunity

From a professional and personal standpoint, saying 2020 has been a year of disruption feels like an understatement. We all know the phrase, nothing in life is constant but change. It comes from a Greek philosopher who can be summarized in the phrase Panta Rhei (“life is flux”) the underlying essence of life is change. 

With a fixed mindset, change is bad. With a growth mindset, change is opportunity. And disruption is just the catalyst for change that if harnessed, can lead to some tremendous business opportunities. 

Disruption Defined 

Simply stated, disruption is a disturbance to a normal activity or process. In the extreme, disruption is a radical change to an existing industry, market or business model. Types of disruption include: 

  • Customer: needs, expectations and purchasing behaviors change over time 
  • Technology: new technologies and faster adoption timelines
  • Market: new competitors, new business models, unlocked marketsand blurring industry boundaries 
  • Talent: next generation talent has evolved the employee value proposition 
  • Geo/Political: continued globalization and political/societal/regulatory reform 
  • And now we must add “pandemic”  

Pandemic Disruption

The COVID-19 pandemic has spared no one. From a business and economic standpoint, the discussion is more about howhow much and how long. Organizations have been impacted in three primary ways: 

  1. Customer Purchasing: How quickly did customers pivot from browsing grocery isles to ordering online (least to say the surge in direct wine sales…)? 
  2. Distribution/Service Delivery: How many customers had a $5 sandwich delivered to their doorstep for the first time? 
  3. Employee Engagement: How many organizations had to learn to enable a remote workforce while maintaining connectednessculture, and productivity through a screen? 

Again, change happens. But an organization’s readiness for change has been tested to the extreme this year. For example, regional bank received $2B in PPP funding requests in the first 72 hours compared to approximately only $600M in SBA loans in the prior 30 years! The lumber industry saw a nearly complete halt at the onset of the pandemic followed by an explosion of demand, most notably an increase in more profitable retail outlet sales due to a surge of home improvement projects. All service-oriented/desk job organizations with an “in the office” culture were thrust into enabling remote workers some have embraced work/live from anywhere, some can’t wait to get back to the office and many are looking at a strategic hybrid. 

Navigating Disruption 

Responding to the crisis requires good leadership and crisis managementNavigating disruption and capitalizing on the opportunity it provides requires resiliency. At risk of oversimplifying the gears of a current day organization, keeping People, Process and Technology optimized and aligned is a foundational operating principleTo create a resilient organization that can manage a crisis AND navigate long-term disruption, we have found the following critical success factors: 

  1. PeopleNurture a positive culture; empower diverse leadership; embed an innovation and growth mindset; and be fiercely customer- and employee-centric 
  2. ProcessDesign for efficiency AND flexibility; focus on outcomes over procedure but put controls in place when historically people-powered processes are at a breaking point; and be fiercely customer- and employee-centric 
  3. Technology: Design for scalability and agility: cloud-native and other non-geo/premise constraining options; customer and employee privacy and security; and be fiercely customer- and employee-centric 

Why the refrain of “be fiercely customer- and employee-centric”? Because it is that important! As we leave the industrial age and crash into the age of the customer and digital businesses, organizations have to shift to an outside-in perspective. It sounds so simple and is the foundation of commerce: understand what the customer wants and give it to them. Unfortunately, too many organizations invest time, talent and resources in optimizing from inside out. That is, optimizing processes to make them more efficient with little to no benefit to the customer; implementing technology that you hope your current customers want and not even considering the customers you don’t yet have; and hiring talent to do the same job the same way you always have rather than aligning with and training for customer-valued activities. 

2021 – Back to Normal? New Normal? A year of Opportunity Regardless 

If you embrace change, it is irrelevant if 2021 looks more like 2019 or a continuation of the path we are on. Even “going back” to the way it was would be another change at this point. So whether 2020 was a wake up call or validation that your existing strategy was on point, your call to action is the same: 

  • Starting with leadership, embrace a growth mindset, think outside-in, and challenge the sacred cows
  • Evaluate your current and next market opportunitiesproduct/service offerings, customers and prospective customers and be clear of where you want to be versus have been 
  • Create a plan – actionable, practical, clear and followable by your organization. Even if you only capitalize on one new opportunity in 2021, start the transformation 
  • Embed customer experience, data and analytics and digital into your organizations core competencies. These are the tools you need to compete in the digital age 
  • And by all means, invest in upskilling, enabling and caring for your employees. A healthy, diverse, resilientand future-forward workforce is the secret weapon 


Robert Sunker leads RevGen’s Offerings, Solutions, and Innovation. He is passionate about helping organizations navigate disruption to thrive. His experience consulting and advising clients on growth and business improvement crosses many industries from mid-market to Fortune 100. 

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get the latest updates and Insights from RevGen delivered straight to your inbox.