Hiroshi "Mickey" Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.
@hmikitani_e

Disruptors get a lot of attention. Disruptors can be individuals, companies, or even economies. I’m passionate about driving innovation at our company to disrupt the status quo, whether it’s in our existing markets or industries that are completely new to us.

But by its very nature, disruption is not a force within our control. Just as we look for ways to disrupt and innovate, we must also handle the challenges of disruption when they are visited upon us by our competition.

Take sports, for example. Angelique Kerber recently stunned Serena Williams and the world to win the Australian Open women’s tennis title. Williams has won 21 Grand Slam titles in her career, including her last eight Grand Slam finals matches. In this match, Kerber was a disruptor. She played her strength, defense, against the strength of her opponent, offense. She countered Williams at every step of the match and walked away with the victory, the first Grand Slam victory for a German tennis player since 1999.

We will see another sports disruptor in Super Bowl 50 in Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Newton didn’t lead the league in passing, but he did in running the ball. Many have come before him with the ability to run and pass the ball but, at 196 centimeters and 112 kilograms, Newton’s size in this position makes him a unique disruptor. Defense players do not know how to stop him. We’ll find out if he can be stopped this Sunday.

I don’t want you to think disruptors will always win. In fact, it’s rarely the case. Disruptors, and disruption, are something that must be managed. Cam Newton’s opponent, Peyton Manning, who is 13 years his senior, has managed and fought off disruption during the latter part of his career. He’s managed those who have tried to defeat his team, as well as those who have tried to replace him.

This lesson doesn’t only apply to sports, it applies to the business world too. To remain viable in your own industry, you must also manage disruption. Here’s how:

  • Focus on your strengths. While innovation is a powerful thing, a business must work to become a meaningful player in its core pursuits. Double down on your strengths to stay ahead of disruptors.
  • Build marketshare. Newcomers will always enter your marketplace. The best way to battle that is to grow marketshare and ensure you are growing fast enough to outpace challengers.
  • Strengthen existing services. Newcomers will seek to woo your customers and to battle that, you must constantly look for ways to improve your services. Look around the corner to know what your customers will want tomorrow and deliver that service today.

More disruption is coming this year. The competitive landscape is intensifying in all industries. We will see it in new technologies managed via our smartphones. We will see it in virtual reality. We will see more disruption in the Sharing Economy. So we must be prepared, not surprised, when the challenge arrives.