Disrupt Your Way to Innovation!

In the early 1900s, Ford Motor Company helped transform the transportation landscape – from horse-driven carriages to motor-driven vehicles. In shaping an entirely new market, Henry Ford was less interested in consumer preferences and more interested in innovation and disruption, saying “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

As a self-described “disruptor at heart,” Henry Hays emphasizes the importance of understanding and undertaking disruption to uncover new opportunities. 

Now is the time to disrupt

“If you’re not disrupting your own game today, someone will do it for you,” says Hays, managing partner, Henry Hays Consulting, and co-founder, DisruptREADY, a business intelligence firm that educates legacy businesses on emerging technologies. Hays spoke at the 2023 EMBAC Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

As a consultant, Hays helps legacy businesses transform by developing radically different models. His previous experience includes serving as senior executive vice president for MPower Health, a Dallas-based healthcare company that focuses on delivering innovative value-based care; national sales director for Avanir Pharmaceuticals; and founder of MatchPoint Connection, the first name, image, and likeness (NIL) app in the marketplace.

Disrupt once – and then again

Hays shared the example of six industry leaders that are helping drive the U.S. economy. Of the six, only two, Amazon and Netflix, have reached the 20-year mark. “You have to redefine your value to the market, or else you will be disrupted.”


In particular, Netflix rapidly surpassed sector leader Blockbuster with an innovative business model. Not only did Netflix pioneer streaming, but the company also made an investment in creating its own content. The $100 million gamble on Netflix’s popular House of Cards series more than paid off.

Taking a close look at your professional and personal ruts can help you open your thinking to new possibilities and help you overcome the tendency to, as many did in the early 1900s, prefer their horse-drawn buggies to motor-driven transportation, says Hays.

“Innovation waits for none of us,” he says. “And it’s a little faster today.”

Find your way to innovation

Asking yourself the following questions can help in identifying new paths to innovation:

  • Where is your market the most complacent? You may find ideas that help shake up the market by breaking through business as usual.
  • Where can you relieve customer frustrations? The more you understand what irritates customers, the more fodder you have to define new ways of doing business or new businesses.
  • What are the tension points and how can you break through them? Uber Air wanted to make aerial ridesharing a reality, but the Federal Aviation Administration controls airspace. If there are ways to relieve the tension points, you are in the position to write the playbook for a new market or rewrite the playbook for a current market segment.
Technology and creative spaces can help

Hays recommended four actions that support change:

  • Keep a clean data house, making sure you collect meaningful and accurate data
  • Create a digital assets team to help with collection, organization, and analysis of data and other digital assets
  • Establish an AI ecosystem that includes more than just ChatGPT
  • Set aside time and find places for creative thinking

If you work on effectively disrupting the status quo, you may find yourself in a winning position. “This is where you can jump to the front of the line.”

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