“Disruption might be scary, but there is a silver lining for those that can kind of unclench their fists and see that it can create opportunity.”

NEW YORK — A Fortune journalist and author of a new book on Airbnb had an important takeaway for the attendees of Inman Connect NY 2018 on Thursday: business leaders need to be willing to embrace change and lean in to unconventional thinking, or risk the kind of widespread disruption Airbnb continues to wreak on the hospitality industry.

“While nobody wants to be disrupted, it’s actually not that bad and, believe it or not, there’s a playbook on how to deal with it, and it can actually lead to opportunity,” said Leigh Gallagher, a senior editor-at-large for Fortune magazine and author of The Airbnb Story: How Three Guys Disrupted an Industry, Made Billions of Dollars and Plenty of Enemies.

“That’s hard to get your arms around, but it’s true,” Gallagher added.

Gallagher said that years after resisting change within the hospitality industry brought on by disruption, large hotel groups like Marriott and Hyatt are finally taking a cue from Airbnb’s playbook by directing consumer-facing employees to go off the script and by developing Millennial-friendly boutiques, like Marriott’s own Moxy spinoff in Times Square, just blocks away from Connect’s venue.

“They see where the future is going, and they want to be part of it,” Gallagher said.

Elsewhere, supermarket chains like Kroger are borrowing ideas fostered by meal delivery kits like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh and banking institutions are launching algorithmic automatic investment vehicles to compete with so-called robo-advisors, Gallagher said.

In the real estate industry, innovators like OfferPad, Redfin and Opendoor are just getting warmed up, allowing savvy business leaders from legacy companies to adapt, change and benefit from the disruption before it’s too late, Gallagher noted.

“Real estate is actually at an interesting moment right now—it’s right at the cusp,” said Gallagher. “There’s innovation that’s been happening, there’s disruption that’s been happening. But it’s an enormous industry and it’s probably about to happen more so you have a real opportunity to sort of try to adapt this mindset.”

“Disruption might be scary, but there is a silver lining for those that can kind of unclench their fists and see that it can create opportunity,” said Gallagher.

Here, below, are four takeaways from Gallagher on how to avoid fallout from disruption.

Four tips to avoid fallout from disruption

  1. Don’t dismiss anything: “Know that disruption is going to happen, have your radar up and just be on the look out for it,” said Gallagher. “But also know the next billion dollar idea isn’t going to look anything like the billion dollar idea when it first appears.”
  2. Welcome the disruptors: “This sounds crazy, but meet with them. Invite them into your offices,” she said. “I guarantee you you will learn something and I guarantee you that that relationship will come in handy later in ways that you can’t even imagine.”
  3. Try to see the opportunity that the disruptors present to you: “It can be very hard to see because it’s very scary,” she said. “But one of the things disruptors do is they look at an old industry through a completely new lens, and they often times will spot a growth opportunity that wasn’t there before and that no one had seen, and that’s very, very hard work to do and they’ve done it for you. It’s the equivalent of discovering a pot of gold or striking oil — once it’s out there and identified it’s there for all to claim.”
  4. Remember that the disruptors aren’t trying to put you out of business: “They don’t intend — not always — to blow up these old industries,” said Gallagher. “In fact, sometimes they do it by accident. I think Airbnb’s success surprised everybody, probably no one more than the three founders themselves.”

Read all of our coverage from Inman Connect NY 2018.

Email Jotham Sederstrom

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