The last two months I’ve really been thinking about the Machiavelli quote "Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times." It all started when Apple revealed that they where dropping the headphone jack from their latest phones.
The vitriol would make you think the world is ending but looking at the impact its clear why Apple made the change. By ditching the legacy tech, it allows the new iPhones to make a clear step forward with better waterproofing and most importantly bigger batteries. Even with these major upgrades coupled with the overall trend that Bluetooth headphones will quickly become the norm, the courage of conviction from Apple to take the lead on this and ride out the negative storm is huge.
The famous Clayton Christensen book the “Innovators Dilemma” talks about how it is easier for smaller and nimbler companies to out-innovate large companies and steal market share in new categories that don’t currently exist. Apple in this instance (and many others) are not afraid to disrupt themselves before a competitor does.
When we look at the gambling industry, we can see a lot of equivalents of the 3.5mm headphone jack that has become the accepted norm but is holding back innovation. A quick straw poll of the major sportsbooks on mobile for a random football match and I’m offered at least 50 different pre-match betting markets. You have to give credit to the various UX teams who have gone above beyond to squeeze in so many options into such a small space, however they are battling the dilemma faced by the largest bookies is that they are now stuck trying to cater to every possible bet permutation. Contrast this with what is still my favourite the BetVictor Instabet app. BetVictor have shown what can be done if you simplify and focus an app on one great experience.
When we look at the biggest Casino operators, again we see that operators feel obliged to offer every possible game from every supplier. The headphone jack issue is that the ability for players to “discover” games is a complete misnomer, as Barry Schwartz in his book “The Paradox of Choice” shows that giving users more choice makes them less likely to pick something and regret the choices that they do make. Large operators are so wrapped up in the arms race of new content and the potential opportunity lost that a new high roller might appear at any moment looking for a particular game that they have lost control of their sites. This allows younger nimbler companies such as Casino Heroes to innovate how games are presented to users and where players have to earn the right to see additional games. It was brave of them to buck the trend but proving to be a clear winner with players. You also have other operators really focused on brand and innovating as much as possible around the games such as Guts, Rizk, Thrills and Leo Vegas. These disruptors will be the major casino operators in the next few years.
Creating a culture within a large organization that challenges perceived business norms is far from an easy thing to do. The best approach is to create a dedicated cross-functional team with the ability to work on projects that are either too risky or with revenue potential that would be too small for the main business to work on. This R&D team can then easily hot-house projects before making a decision on what gets cancelled and what is now on trajectory to be a proven winner and graduate them to the main business.
If you don’t create the ability for your business to disrupt yourself, you could easily end up managing the eGaming equivalent of Kodak when camera phones are starting to take off.