Home Thriving in The Era of Disruption

Thriving in The Era of Disruption

Legacy brands have the ability to do more than just survive. Thriving in this era of disruption is essential — here’s how.

There is a standard narrative that most of us have heard many times. One that has fueled the growth of upstart hubs and emerging brands worldwide. The anecdotal versions are about the digital startups offering products and services designed to disrupt and redefine legacy industries and their behemoth brands.

But as it turns out, Goliath doesn’t always fall so easily.

Take an Example From Banks in The Era of Disruption

Twenty years ago, for example, pundits were confidently predicting that large banks would be disrupted by decentralized bits and bytes. Of course, we now know that the financial services market expanded to accommodate the influx of would-be disruptors, rising the tide for everyone’s boat.

Take Disruption Threats Seriously

In fact, the most significant companies across financial services and tech have greatly accelerated their growth and profitability despite the threat of disruption – particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this doesn’t mean that large institutions shouldn’t take the threat of disruption seriously. On the contrary, it is genuine and will have detrimental consequences for those who remain complacent and don’t adapt.

Survival of Legacy Companies

With the exponential growth of disruptive technologies, there are plenty of notable examples across the last several decades of legacy companies that have not survived the arrival of smaller, nimbler competitors and digital-first technology.

Failure to Innovate is at Your Peril

When you think about brands like Blockbuster, PanAm, Kodak, and Nokia, they all have one major flaw in common. They failed to innovate for a future that today seems inevitable. The same can be said about the energy sector. The advent of disruptive smart grid technologies and the sector’s reliance on infrastructure from the dark ages have sealed the fate of an industry that once seemed impenetrable.

Rise to the Future You Deserve and Thrive

But it’s also important to remember that for every brand that has fallen into obscurity, there are numerous others who have risen to the challenge and found even greater growth trajectories. Many of these legacy brands enjoy the benefit of long-established strategies, customer bases, and sheer momentum that can help them turn the changing terrain to their advantage – but only if they act strategically, decisively, and quickly.

Banking on a digital future

Let’s take a look at Fintech. The traditional financial services industry has been hugely impacted by disruptors, from Zelle to Robinhood – and yet big banks like Barclays and JPMorgan Chase are still titans of industry.

Forward-thinking institutions have responded to the fintech boom by looking inward, focusing on disrupting their traditional models of servicing customers in favor of creating a more accessible and impactful experience.

If you’ve ever been to a Capital One Cafe, you know exactly what I’m talking about here. It doesn’t feel like a bank but rather a remote worker’s utopian vision of the future that combines the creature comforts of home, work, and your favorite coffee shop all in one destination. Oh, and it just so happens that you can do your banking there too.

Banks are moving faster than ever

So in an industry that has traditionally been slow to adapt and respond to change, we’re seeing many banks move much faster to adapt to evolving consumer and business needs while leaning into their existing strengths of scale and historical knowledge.

These strategies have helped to ensure the long-term survival of a variety of large legacy financial institutions.

Redefining the energy sector so it can start thriving in the era of disruption

In stark contrast to the continued growth path of the traditional financial services industry, the energy sector has reached a dead end following decades of complacency and self-inflicted wounds that have led to its imminent disruption and demise.

Alternate energy is the same ancient workings in a new wrapper

While there have been significant investments in driving the growth and availability of alternative energy sources, that progress has been primarily hindered — at least in the U.S.  — because even alternative energy feeds into the same ancient electric grid that we’ve been relying on for more than half a century. The U.S. government provides all kinds of information on the “what is renewable energy” while providing zero solutions.

What are utility companies doing to innovate?

This is an example of a sector that needs disruption, along with the utility companies that have helped to perpetuate the failure of an archaic and broken model. You don’t need to look much further than Texas’s massive electrical grid failure or California’s catastrophic wildfires for proof. The government blames the wildfires on climate change rather than outdated systems.

For Your Business to Thrive in The Era of Disruption — You Must Invest and Improve

For renewable energy to truly have a systemic and lasting impact, there must be a fundamental shift toward investment in improving the infrastructure of the existing grid.

The good news is that advances in smart grid technologies are paving the road for an energy model that actually meets the needs and demands of the 21st century and well beyond.

Smart grids have the ability to drive the more efficient distribution of electricity to broader areas and reduce the overall cost of operations and management.

What can legacy brands learn?

With all of this in mind, here are three time-tested areas that companies should be focusing on in order to ensure longevity despite the threat of disruption.

  • Focus on people

    Companies need to build teams with a wide range of thought and perspectives to quickly adapt to changing market dynamics and break free from “business as usual.” Creativity and innovation take the biggest hit when everyone looks, thinks, and acts the same within an organization, severely limiting growth potential.

  • Focus on process Most legacy companies need to rewire the corporate brain to think and act more like the emerging brands that are driving disruption, rather than falling into a state of complacency. Organizations need to think proactively about elements like how they develop new products, how they manage order fulfillment, how they allocate scarce resources, and most importantly, how they engage with their customers.
  • Focus on technologyLegacy organizations need to invest in their technology stack to keep pace in the digital era, and they need to do it quickly. Many are leveraging their scale to successfully tackle digital transformation by realizing which traditional products and services in their offering are being commoditized and then building those into foundational, utilitarian services to customers.


While it’s clear that the disruption of industry behemoths is exaggerated in many cases, it will most certainly become a harsh reality for those who don’t take an outside-in view of their markets.

At this point, it’s essential to learn from peer brands that have faced the wave of disruption and ridden it to even greater heights. Pay attention to emerging brands that seek to disrupt your business.

Image Credit: by Olia Danilevich; Pexels; Thank you!

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.