Don’t Disrupt Your Industry — Reinvigorate It

Entrepreneurs throw around the term “disruption” to describe a new technology or a small supply chain shift. In reality, disruption threatens existing companies and business models by changing the game entirely. Rather than seeking to disrupt a market, consider trying to reinvigorate it.


Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says that innovations can be sustaining or disruptive. Sustaining innovations improve existing products and technologies without prompting crushing blows from powerful industry heads. Companies attempting to reinvigorate an industry can incite significant growth for all players, much like the open source software movement of the ’90s that led to incredible technological advancement.


Forgoing disruption for reinvigoration also lets you change the type of war your company is waging. Spotify circumvented the stalemate of music ownership when it used streaming technology to let customers listen to music anywhere while paying musicians for every play. Both sustaining and disruptive innovations can transform an industry, but reinvigorating an industry could be a smarter path for your company’s long-term health.


Give Your Industry a Light Push


When we sought to reinvigorate the trade show industry, we faced plenty of pushback. Many influencers doubted our efforts, and some of the larger players got angry with us. But as Victor Hugo said, “No army can stop an idea whose time has come.”


When many large shows, exhibitors, and venues noticed our efforts to combat imbalanced practices that kept the industry from reaching its growth potential, big industry players started approaching us to solve their pain points. In turn, we gained support, guidance, and invaluable connections.


As we continued solving problems for exhibitors, we realized we’d just hit the tip of the iceberg. Show organizers also benefitted from our product and offered iterative feedback on product features and development, which pushed us in the right direction. The industry is now in its most profitable period of growth yet.


Resistance is inevitable when you’re trying to implement new industry practices, but these changes will help sustain your market in the long term. To reinvigorate your industry, start with these three steps:


1. Seek to Benefit the Customer First


Companies that blatantly disregard consumers simply can’t survive. You need to listen to your customers, figure out their sharpest pain points, and find a way to soothe those. Consider surveying customers to collect feedback on products, software, and services. Closing the feedback loop will ensure you’re putting customers first.


Yelp did this by equipping consumers with the knowledge to make smarter purchase decisions. In the past, consumers researching products relied on professional critics alone. Through review sites such as Yelp, consumers now have an outlet to share their opinions and a source for unbiased product information.


2. Create Opportunities for Everyone


The best solutions are compromises because they allow everyone to benefit from a reinvigorated industry. Although every company in your market might not support your efforts, you should press on and seek to benefit those that are open to change.


Tesla Motors chose to open its patents to competitors last year. That’s not something you see every day. By sharing its technologies, Tesla may inspire a more dramatic shift toward electric vehicles, providing other companies with profitable opportunities in the process.


3. Ask Top Industry Players for Help


When you’re immersed in your business, it’s easy to spot the major players in your space. Once you’ve weeded out competitors from the list, strive to gain influencer support and ask them for advice or a partnership.


Industry veterans could have working theories or other strategic insight you need to know. The best way to become an expert is to learn from them.


Buzzwords won’t keep your industry afloat. Reinvigorating your industry with sustaining innovations, however, might just do the trick. Find a way to help your customers and other members in your industry. When you aim to usher in positive change for everyone involved, others will be eager to follow your lead.





Eric Schaumburg is the founder and CEO of, an e-commerce platform for the trade show industry. Connect with @eventr_io on Twitter.