Forget Gravity

By Dom Keogh

Imagine if you could re-invent an industry, start from scratch and remove any, or even all, of the current frameworks, status-quo’s or expectations. Essentially “forgetting gravity” and all the reconvictions that go with a fixed idea. That’s exactly what William Shaw and Jeff Hoffman suggest as the catalysing method to be able to disrupt industries and build products/services with the consumer back in central focus.

Jeff Hoffman

Jeff Hoffman delivering his speech at the GEC. (Photo credit: Dom Keogh)

Both Jeff and William have been disruptive in the same industry, airlines, but in very different ways. Jeff was once told “the airline industry doesn’t work that way” and consequently went to conceive the notion of the self-service ticket machines at check-in desks, a truly revolutionary concept and ripped-up previous impossibilities. Since then he has gone on to found the or, as known in the UK, who are famous for their rather ‘tongue-in-cheek’ advertising style of late. The simple idea of letting people bid for empty hotel rooms has now spread to over 190 counties and has become a phenomenally successful $65bn company in the process.

William, on the other hand, has launched VivaColumbia, giving low cost travel access to the population of Columbia. VivaColumbia continues to expand across South America, currently operating a fleet of nine aircraft. By providing low cost travel affordable to the masses he has disrupted a previously elitist mode of transport and generated opportunities across countless areas: trade, opportunities, education and aspirations by giving flexibility to human capital.

Dom William Shaw

Dom pictured at the GEC conference with William Shaw, founder of VivaColumbia.

During their presentation, the concept of ‘info-sponging’ was discussed. This is a relatively simple model that involves taking 5 minutes out of each and every day to learn something that you don’t need to learn or wouldn’t otherwise be reading. Having spent these 5 minutes reading the subject, it is then important to compile ideas/thoughts into a simple sentence or two to ensure the newly acquired knowledge is absorbed as efficiently as possible. So, why bother doing this? Well, as Jeff and William explained, disruption occurs from learning about other industries and transferring ideas, a.k.a: “info-sponging”. The initial application of the separate industries innovations may not have a directly comparable application, but once translated across and re-applied, they can have immensely powerful results.

The concept of ‘Drive-thrus’, especially in the USA, have completely transformed how everything from fast-food to Weddings are consumed but are so often synonymised solely with fast-food. To think this is an idea that originally started in the Consumer Banking sphere and was then applied to the first ever drive-thru fast food restaurant is truly remarkable. Using this inter-industry technique of “forgetting gravity”, this is a prime example of a success story only achieved through someone observing practices in an industry completely separate to their own, but then identifying opportunities to apply it elsewhere- showing the importance of cross-industry integration. As Jeff and William discussed, the chances of entrepreneurs becoming so focused on their own business in a tunnel-vision like fashion is immensely high. But through stepping back, info-sponging different practices, and maintaining a wider understanding of surrounding markets, one can reap the rewards and pursue innovation.

About Dom:

Dom is currently in his final year and studying BSc Economics. Dom’s interest in entrepreneurship started at a young age and was catalysed during the course of the Young Enterprise Scheme. Since then Dom has Co-founded one business and has invested in several start-ups in a range of sectors. Dom is also Treasurer of the Investment Society and a Fund Manager as part of the Twikker Fund which actively manages circa £100k.


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