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By Mikel Lindsaar

Disruption is not a game of Follow the Leader

You may not think there are many connections between the fast food and software industries, but hear me out - I think there is a lesson to be learned by any corporation trying to innovate and get ahead.

I just watched "The Founder".

It's a movie about Ray Kroc, the guy who managed to convince the McDonald brothers to try franchising again after they didn't succeed the first time, and then led the campaign to make McDonald's the powerhouse it is.

During the movie, one of the selling points of the McDonald's method was the limited menu (you could order one of two types of burger, fries, some pie and a few drink choices... or nothing) and that they did not do drive up & park car service (common at that time in the USA) thus reducing time from order to food and removing the problem of staff delivering the wrong meal to the wrong person.

The McDonald's model was the ultimate startup disruptor for its time. They took an idea "people want to eat food and not wait for it" and threw out every bit of industry "now we are supposed to” to produce something that people WANTED. Even more than that, they got rid of fundamental requirements (like wait staff) and many of the choices from the menu.

I don't have to let you know that McDonald's boomed in ways never before seen. Their dominance of the fast food market across the USA and then the world has been awe-inspiring. It seemed nothing could stop them.

The creation of competitors like Burger King et al just seemed to help McDonald's grow more, validating the market and getting people used to the model.

Things were rosy, until a serious disruptor came along. Higher quality, upper class, fast food, called fast casual by the industry.

In Australia, there has been a massive increase in companies like Grill'd and Ribs and Burgers who are taking the fight to McDonald's, head on.

This has been amazing to watch. The competition didn't come in with a better McDonald's, instead, they did what McDonald's did. Took "fast food" and turned it on its head. The Grill'd "Healthy Burgers" motto is diametrically opposed to what everyone thought Fast Food was or should be. The idea that you could get food fast, and it not feel guilty about it was a breath of fresh air and consumers responded.

The impact of these new disruptors on McDonald's was significant, so much so that they decided they had to follow the lead of these Fast Casual startups and launch their "Create Your Taste" campaign. This allowed you to order exactly what you want, and the meal would be delivered to your table!

I'm not sure what good ol' Mr Krok would think about this. If he walked into a McDonald's now it would look very different to the restaurant chain he left in the 1980s.

And did this work? Well, in a nutshell...No.

Per Inside Franchise Business, McDonald’s discontinued the initiative in 2017 as it did not produce the results they were after.

So what went wrong?

I think McDonald’s followed the disruptors instead of lead the market by disrupting themselves.

They created confusion with their customer base who had grown up with McDonald’s and knew exactly what they were buying when they went there.

When Grill'd arrived, McDonald's felt like it had to disrupt itself to innovate and stay relevant. If it had found the RIGHT area to disrupt, it would have done so with a massive advantage. McDonald's serves over one million burgers per day across 970 locations in Australia, every one of these in prime real estate.

All they needed to do was figure out how to out disrupt themselves, not try and play follow the leader.

They should have done this by listening to their customers and team, not by trying to follow a new startup in the space.

Being a large corporate, it is one thing to know you should try this disruption thing, and quite another to be successful at it.

But most importantly, you have to do it, on your own terms, BEFORE the startup industry forces you to.

It takes several methodical steps to get a successful disruption launched, and in the modern day, one of the best ways to do this is through web and mobile application development, finding new markets that the incumbent can move into BEFORE an upstart startup decides to.

This is where the reinteractive Disruption Workshop comes into play. It's delivered over several weeks, following this pattern:

  • 2 day Ideation Workshop
  • 4 day App Workshop
  • 3 weeks UX, design and user testing

These steps allow you to first get a team together to come up with ideas that could be done by the organisation. Getting some of your brightest minds together in a room and go crazy with what could be possible for your enterprise.

Then you take the winning idea from this workshop and do a four day App Workshop to work out what would be the Minimum Viable Product needed to make this idea a reality.

This is then converted into UX wireframes and Visual Design mockups that are taken to some end users and actually tested to see if it is something they would use.

If the idea succeeds, a version of the application is scoped, estimated, built and launched rapidly, getting it to market and getting further information to continue to innovate.

The above three steps can be done multiple times across multiple ideas, helping mitigate risk and broadening the net on getting THAT idea that will shift the disruption needle.

Contact us today to get your Disruption Workshop booked in!

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