“If I had asked people what they wanted,” Henry Ford is rumored to have said, “They would have said faster horses.” Now, before you fire the market research department, it is important to remember Henry Ford’s arrogance about customers also lead him to chide, “Customers can have any color car they like as a long as it is black.” Not exactly customer-centric! But, visioning beyond the customer is the responsibility of every person interested in competitive advantage.

Disruptors are visionary companies that change the rules of enterprise by disrupting the way service had historically been delivered. Uber saw the need for reliable, clean taxis and coupled it with the growth of mobile phone use and revolutionized the taxi business. Ray Kroc saw the growth of the nationwide highway system and the paucity of reliable roadside eateries and invented McDonald’s. Thomas Edison did not set out to improve the candle.

Disruption should be a part of the job description of every innovative service provider. It is not just about pioneering a new invention; it is more about seizing upon opportunities created by how these disruptions change customer expectations. After Uber, I am disappointed my local exterminator who chases away the bugs in my house does not give me an app that allows me to rate him or track his journey to my front door. Amazon’s forms are all super computer friendly. So, why does my new medical specialist force me to fill out necessary medical forms in long hand?

So, how is it done? There are countless innovation techniques. Extrapolation is one of my favorites. Let us take the much-ballyhooed Apple Watch as an example. The watch is slated to redefine the meaning of watch—more of a wearable mobile phone. Combining Fitbit-like health maintenance with any number of other monitoring capacities, the watch is only a click away from becoming a way to monitor practically everything in your life. And, I can potentially link in my doctor who can then call me on the golf course to let me know my heart rate looks like a heart attack about to happen. James Bond would kill for all the cool gimmickry that might soon become commonplace.

We are only playing “what if’s” like school children dreaming up new roles for imaginary space invaders. But, that is how it is done. And, if your preview of “what’s coming” is less about what might be and more about the pace customers generalize that newness to everything thing around them, you are on the productive and profitable path of innovative service.

Photo Credit: David Marcu