How to Avoid a Business Autopsy: Four Technology Disruptions to Watch Out For


What’s the probability that your company might be a featured ‘business autopsy’ in a best-selling business book in the near future? According to Thornton May in his recent article for, the probability is pretty high, especially if you don’t take today’s technology disruptions seriously.

May surveyed several accounts of well-known companies that became yesterday’s news because they ignored technology disruptions, which ironically were widely publicized in the business media.

“The thing that I was surprised to discover as I read these and other books was that disrupted companies were not blindsided. Disruptive technology doesn’t sneak up on anybody; it’s nearly always loudly heralded long before its victims fall prey to it,” said May.

Adding to the warning voices about the coming disruptions, I wanted to share four disruptors you should look out for, and tips on how you can take advantage of them to your company’s benefit.

Startup Competitors

In classic David vs. Goliath scenarios, startups have already slayed some of the industry’s biggest players. Amazon disrupted Borders. Netflix disrupted Blockbuster. Uber and Airbnb are disrupting the transporation and hospitality industries.

The solution? Follow Intel’s lead and become ‘paranoid.’

Former Intel CEO Andy Grove lays out the ‘paranoid’ philosophy in his book Only The Paranoid Survive. Essentially, think like your competitors and work to make your own products, services and processes obsolete before anybody else does.

There are a lot of great lessons to learn from Intel and the continued disruption of large companies by small start-ups.  One that I recommend to executives I speak with is not only should you figure out how to disrupt yourself, you should also think outside of the paradigm of your own industry.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly becoming a reality, with billions of sensors monitoring anything you could possibly think of.

The growing number of devices coming online provides great opportunities for companies to innovate. But where can IoT impact business functions inside and outside your industry, and where can you obtain competitive advantage?

Some functions will have more applicability for certain industries (i.e, logistics, customer interactions, machine or parts for maintenance).

Cities are using IoT to make their citizenry more intelligent. Logistics companies are giving their customers real-time insight to optimize their supply chain and improve customer satisfaction.

Agricultural companies are using IoT to analyze the chemical and nutritional makeup of soils on a micro-ecological level to optimize food production.

These are just a few examples of the millions of functions being enabled by this technology.

Big Data

If you’ve ever taken a trip overseas and bought a souvenir with your credit card from an out-of-the-way shop, you might have gotten a call from a bank alerting you to possible fraudulent activity on your credit card. How did that happen? They used big data to spot patterns that you or I are probably not aware of.

The sensors connected to the billions of IoT devices, your smart phones, internet transactions, video downloads, and commercial transactions, to name a few, are contributing to the growing petabytes of data every day. But this data is useless if you are unable turn it into information you can use to make business decisions.

You need the proper tools and people (i.e., data scientists) who can detect patterns and trends, and extract meaning so you can make impactful decisions for your business.

For example, data from your car might give your car’s manufacturer the information it needs to detect patterns that could help you prevent an axle break.

And data that Uber tracks on driving patterns can help city planners redesign the way their cities are laid out.

Security Breaches

As more and more things get connected to the internet they become communications and data collection points, creating exponentially more opportunities for security breaches.

As a result, the FTC just released a report urging companies to develop security and privacy best practices to prevent the increasingly prevalent hackings we’ve been seeing lately.

Some of the potential security breach scenarios listed in this recent article in eSecurity Planet are pretty jarring. Imagine hackers purposefully crashing thousands of driverless cars, or sending fake data about your car’s maintenance needs.


Advances in technology have enabled organizations to grow and consumers to improve their quality of life. But these advances also cause disruptions to whole industries, and can turn yesterday’s stable companies into today’s statistics.

Today four of these technology disruptors are in plain view for everyone to see: nimble and technically savvy startups, the internet of things, big data and growing security threats. Will your company be tomorrow’s business autopsy, or will it become tomorrow’s success story because your company was able to adapt and leverage these disruptors to gain competitive advantage?


All of a sudden every company is becoming a technology company. No matter what industry you participate in, I’ll bet that it is being transformed by information technology. 

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