Becoming the cannibal
Earlier this week an article by Marc Hemeon of Design Inc. popped up on my feed.
It’s a quick guide to putting together a logo in 5 minutes, without hiring a designer.
Design Inc. is a marketplace for hiring high quality designers.
Does this sound a little counter-intuitive?
The comments below the line range from gratitude and excitement to bemusement to admonishment.
As you may guess, the latter mainly comes from people in the design community.
This very handy piece of content marketing is great for entrepreneurs wanting to get add some design credibility to an early-stage idea, but when it comes to creating and developing a true brand identity it takes much more than 5 minutes and a blog post. Hemeon makes this clear in the first two paragraphs but it appears it didn’t land with some of the outraged.
I don’t believe that guides like this are damaging to the design industry, but the article did get me thinking about the concept of cannibalising parts of your own business.
I take the view that this does two things;
– Empowers others to do something they couldn’t before, and better understand the expertise of the professional practitioner
– Pushes the professional practitioners to develop their offering and expertise
Cannibalisation is connected to disruptive innovation, described by Clay Christensen as follows:
As companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ needs evolve, most organizations eventually end up producing products or services that are actually too sophisticated, too expensive, and too complicated for many customers in their market.
Companies pursue these “sustaining innovations” at the higher tiers of their markets because this is what has historically helped them succeed: by charging the highest prices to their most demanding and sophisticated customers at the top of the market, companies will achieve the greatest profitability.
However, by doing so, companies unwittingly open the door to “disruptive innovations” at the bottom of the market. An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers at the bottom of a market access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.
Characteristics of disruptive businesses, at least in their initial stages, can include: lower gross margins, smaller target markets, and simpler products and services that may not appear as attractive as existing solutions when compared against traditional performance metrics. Because these lower tiers of the market offer lower gross margins, they are unattractive to other firms moving upward in the market, creating space at the bottom of the market for new disruptive competitors to emerge.
An example of this is Sketch disrupting Photoshop in the design software market. Marc Hemeon’s article adds a taste of cannibalisation — he’s inviting disruption to come and eat a bit of his own business.
Cannibalising your own business often means you should find ways you can be better.
Design as a practice is very unlikely to be eaten whole by technology and open source methodologies. However, quick-step guides like Hemeon’s indicate that designers should continue to take the harder route to avoid commoditisation.
They should be considered a true partner and advisor as well as a maker, being in the position to deliver holistic and creative solutions to their clients’ business challenges.
Sometimes we have to cannibalise parts of our own business to become better and be more valuable to our clients and customers.
Could you cannibalise a part of your own business to become better in the long term?