Stop, Look, and Listen: Learning Lessons in Disruption

Lessons in Disruption: Stop, Look and Listen

Every business owner knows the feeling of being stuck. Even when your business is running smoothly and revenues are decent, you sometimes feel as if there is more that you could be accomplishing.


You see your competitors innovating and creating when you’re repeating the same processes over and over again. We can get caught in an “if it ain't broke then don't fix it” cycle.

If you’re used to being a disrupter, good just isn’t good enough. When you hit these seeming plateaus, it might be time to shake things up. And it starts with ensuring that you’re making changes that your customers actually want. It’s what we’ve been able do at Meshfire, and we’ve been able to hit the reset button to continue growing because of it.

Letting customers shape your efforts

At Meshfire, we’ve always been disruptors. We worked to create a unique approach to using artificial intelligence (AI) to help users manage social media. But when you’re doing things that haven’t been done before, it can often create unexpected challenges. Fortunately, our customers have helped us respond to those issues—and even pushed for key adjustments—that have led us to make core changes to meet their needs.

For example, when we rolled out in 2014, there were a ton of ways to apply AI to social media management. Our customers were constantly coming to us, asking for new and different features based on the ways they were using social media. After a while, we realized that we simply couldn’t keep up. We needed a larger solution.

That led us to rethink the way we were delivering our service and how it was being used. The answer was simple and elegant, but required a true disruption in our business model. Rather than wait to hear about what users wanted next, we decided to put control into their hands with a new tool called Ember. Essentially, it’s a technology that works behind the scenes to analyze user activities and “learn” what their needs are. Over time, they can use Ember to define their own parameters, and have the program respond when it sees special tweets, tweets from certain people, or those in a particular language or with a strong sentiment, etc.

We disrupted ourselves into new and unexpected work, but we’re delivering more value to our customers and, at the end of the day, that’s our goal.

Extending your vision

While customers can help you scale barriers, they can also create inspiration that takes your mission further than you might have thought possible. It may seem difficult, but finding ways to listen to every customer can have benefits you might otherwise miss. In our case, one comment changed our entire vision.

While we get hundreds of tweets every day, one really stood out for us. In the summer of 2015, two aircraft went missing at one time in the state of Washington. We didn’t realize it, but our tools helped first responders in a way we hadn’t envisioned:

While the original concept of Meshfire was to enable users to better manage their social media and help marketers reach new customers, after we saw that comment, we realized that we were having an impact we hadn’t counted on and that our vision could be bigger. That one tweet led us to refocus on our larger mission of getting the most critical social media information to the right people at the right time. We decided to push harder on accuracy and speed, and we’ve maintained that focus to this day.

So, if you find that your business is “stuck,” turn to your customers. They can teach you lessons in disruption that you won’t learn anywhere else.