Four Companies Who Disrupted Their Industries and How You Can Do the Same


When you hear the term “disruptive innovation,” does it conjure up thoughts of rare engineering geniuses who spend years developing some unprecedented product? Sure, there are those geniuses and their stories, and we have them to thank for many of the products we use today. But they’re not the only ones with the power to make waves.

Industry disruption also comes from businesses that simply embrace today’s already-available innovative technology, and then apply it in new and creative ways. With platforms, smart products, asset-leveraging, and staff-on-demand, business leaders solve their current problems and improve processes. In doing so, many of them set a new bar for their industries or re-define them entirely.

While the examples below highlight (now) large companies, small businesses have one key advantage: the ability to quickly adapt their strategies and exploit new opportunities. How can you apply the growth strategies highlighted below to your business?

Feeding America

Feeding America is a national hunger-relief group that organizes the collection and distribution of donations to food banks all across the country. Now number three on Forbes’ 100 Largest U.S. Charities list, the network previously struggled with a hefty set of logistical challenges.

Food banks across the nation have unique shortages and surpluses of different foods. But Feeding America workers were having problems keeping track of changing demand. They didn’t know where to send which supplies.

To solve this problem, Feeding America tapped into the concept of disintermediation. They removed the middleman from their organization by creating a platform to connect their producers and consumers directly.

Key application: Is there an inefficiency in your industry that you could solve with a platform (and multiply your revenue in the process)?

John Deere

John Deere has enjoyed incredible payoff from integrating smart product technology with existing offerings. They installed sensors in their tractors to capture diagnostic data, detect weather and soil conditions, and communicate with other farming equipment. By offering diagnostic tools for farming equipment and automatic shut-off of irrigation systems, John Deere attracts and retains customers, saving them time and money.

Perhaps most significantly, these smart products set a new standard for farm equipment, making John Deere an industry leader.

Key application: Are there any opportunities to improve your products with smart capabilities?


Airbnb is a platform-based business that connects people who rent out their guest rooms with people who are looking for a room. Because they don’t actually own the properties, Airbnb is able to avoid all of the costs associated with owning and maintaining the rooms. This has resulted in the company reaching or exceeding the success of traditional hotel chains at an unprecedented speed.

Airbnb’s asset-leveraging technique stands out next to a business like Marriott, for example. It’s taken 90 years for Marriott to reach an estimated value of $26 billion, whereas Airbnb reached $24 billion in 9 years! If that isn’t impressive enough, Airbnb was able to reach their current value with approximately 5,000 employees, while Marriott currently employs around 200,000.

Key application: Is there an opportunity in your business to leverage assets that you do not own?

Prudential Life Insurance

Prudential Life Insurance seized an opportunity to solve a major hangup their customers were experiencing: the length of time it took to get a quote.

Instead of seeking out specialists to create quotes full time, Prudential worked with Kaggle, an existing platform for data scientists. By hosting a competition on Kaggle, Prudential was able to incentivize 2,619 data science teams to offer 45,000 potential solutions to the problem! The result? Their customers went from having to wait 30 days for a quote to now getting one instantly.

Prudential would have been much less likely to acquire such a fantastic solution had they restricted their talent pool to a small, full-time team.

Key application: How could staff-on-demand save your business resources and widen your talent pool?


About Author

Tim Hamilton
CEO & Founder, Praxent
[email protected]

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