“Disruptive” is my least favorite word. It’s so overused that it has become meaningless. The brands that are actually making their mark and changing the way things are done aren’t disruptive. They’re deliberate.
It’s easy to shake things up. The hard part happens after the dust settles. Today, the average company’s lifespan is under twenty years. The brands who will survive after disruption are the ones who move with velocity — quickly, but with intention. Moving with velocity is imperative at any company that aims for longevity, and prioritizes high-quality products over high-quantity products.
One of my favorite examples of this is what Evernote, the digital productivity tool startup, is doing. Sleek, easy to use and beloved by online list makers who don’t want to forget a thing, Evernote wants to be around for the next 100 years. Not an easy feat, unless you have the resources to move at the breakneck pace that Google does to stay ahead of technological innovations.
The Silicon Valley startup recently did something surprising and seemingly anti-digital: it partnered with Moleskine, the luxury notebook company. Recognizing that not everything we want to remember can be typed, Evernote developed a smart writing set — a smart pen and notebook that preserves our thoughts in an analog fashion while retaining the benefits of digital archiving and search. Our scribbles really will be around 100 years from now.
Evernote is operating with strategic velocity, thinking about the long-term usefulness of its product and giving consumers something they’ll be able to use in any context. They’re not aiming to merely “disrupt” the way we record our thoughts. Rather, they’re drawing a bow and arrow, pausing thoughtfully to aim at a far-flung target, and shooting with precision.
Many companies today are focused on getting more technologically advanced just because consumers are more technologically fluent than ever before. Entrepreneurs follow Mark Zuckerberg’s advice, “move fast and break things,” without much focus. That’s a mistake. Rushing to make products that meet consumer demands of the moment — such as a VR app — is a waste of time, effort, money and worst of all does more harm than good for your brand. Working with strategy and speed, rather than mere hustle, is what the savviest brands are doing.
Even a darling unicorn tech startup can buck a trend and still remain true to its core values, retaining its loyal user base while attracting new users. Evernote shows us that companies can pivot in remarkable ways without alienating customers.
The best brands are constant works in progress. Their strategy is always evolving, but they’re methodical and have a defined goal in everything they do. They’re also aware of what they are and what they are not.
The same way a digital company can go analog in a deliberate way, an analog company can go digital in a way that’s more substantial than merely creating a few social media accounts or a frivolous app.
Look to Lego, which is inspiring a new generation of curious builders. Its WeDo 2.0 robotics kit introduces kids to robotics, engineering and programming through a set of Lego bricks that are connected to the Internet and sync with an app. It comes with a series of unique projects that have real-life lessons. One project has users constructing a Lego space rover while learning about the use of real-life space rovers. Another challenges kids to design a device that could help humans, animals and the environment during a weather-related hazard. The robotics kit is one of many calculated innovations from the toy maker, which is worth an impressive $7.1 billion and ranks 86th on Forbes’ list of 100 most valuable brands.
At the heart of both Lego and Evernote are teams who think deeply about their customer bases — these teams are equal parts forward-thinking, inventive and strategic. Lego and Evernote’s products are proof that companies can find a balance between speed and intention while satisfying the immediate needs of their diverse users.
Their products aren’t disruptive. They serve a deliberate need in the here and now, while also looking towards the future. What they deliver transcends disruption, which is why they’re so beloved.
The takeaway? Crush it, don’t rush it.
Alexander Jutkowitz, CEO of Group SJR, Truffle Pig and Colloquial.