Disruption – Buzzword or Active Possibility for Leaders?

Thanks to Scott Chan & FDP
Thanks to Scott Chan & FDP

Recently, we have changed my title from Executive Coach to Disruptive Executive Coach since so much of what we have been discussing with people seems to disrupt their comfort levels.  The key is that it seems to be in a positive manner.  Unfortunately, the word is over used.  It has been grossly expanded by all of the uses that seem to be tied to it in literature and brochures.

As you undoubtedly know, the term “disruptive innovation” comes to us from Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen and his excellent 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma.  Christensen observes that many successful companies spend most of their time working on what he calls “sustaining innovations.”  By spending this time on maintaining and incrementally improving existing products or services, they become susceptible to a “disruptive innovation” from competitors or start-ups that no one even heard of in the current period.  Examples range from technology leaders in computers to the impact of iPhone and iPads on society to non-technical ideas such as crowd sourcing and ecollaboration.  The primary applications were in the technology arena but then it began to expand to business processes and other non-technical fields, hence the over use.

We have come to believe that complacency is dangerous in both our careers and our business.  If we are comfortable where we are at, we often find that simple things become drudgery and big opportunities fly by without being evaluated leaving them for someone else to engage or implement.  Many of us know this but our suspicion is that you haven’t known how to tackle the situation.  Disruptive Thinking can have a major impact for every leader, if used in a positive manner.  For example, we have a series of disruptive thinking questions that we examine for each opportunity.  Below is a brief description of each question:

1. Is the status quo effectively serving all of the stakeholders and if yes, for how long?

If the status quo is serving the current stakeholders well and can be projected out to supporting a reasonable growth then we will leave it alone and revisit in 6 months to a year.  The timetable is up to each individual person, firm and relationships.  We do not recommend disruption for disruptions sake.

2. Can we generate several disruptive ideas that can be adapted?

We need to start with a series of ideas before we can expand the review to a possible proposition or market entry.  Focus as a team to think outside of the proverbial box to generate any ideas that will be disruptive and avoid locking into the old way of thinking and product or service development.  Even if an idea cannot be monetized immediately does not mean that it is a bad or useless idea, thinking disruptively requires pushing the envelope.

3. Can we build a disruptive proposition that will have a positive impact?

If the answer to the question above is marginal then we look at this step to determine if we can build a proposition or hypothesis that can be incorporated within our spheres of influence, i.e., processes, product design or methodology.  Can we assemble enough data to make a reasonable statement regarding viability and applicability?  If it is an extreme, stretch, then what are the risks involved and how can we mitigate them to reduce the potential risk.  If this is not a possibility then we move on.

4. Do we see and can we articulate a disruptive market opportunity that can be nurtured?

If there are limited internal options then we look at the current market we are servicing to determine the need for additions or modifications to the market that will enable us to edge in a new direction within the market.  If not within the market is it necessary to go outside of our current market and determine our ability to add value while remaining viable.

5. Do we have a disruptive solution to a particular issue that may have been overlooked?

This question assumes that we have an idea of a niche or direction within a market space where a need is determined and we can provide a solution.  Is our solution positively disruptive or does it echo known solutions thereby becoming another me-too product or service.  What are the implications of developing and introducing our solution?  Can we anticipate objections, errors or conflicts that would divert resources from critical survival mode with limited return if successful?  Does the gain offset the risk?

6. Can we effectively pitch a disruptive plan complete with benefits?

Once we have conceived a potential disruptive solution then we have to create a pitch or plan that will allow us to obtain agreement, knowledge of, or support in favor of our solution.  It must be concise, reasonable and convincing therefore it must focus on benefits not features.  This will require input from all parts of the organization therefore requiring effective collaboration.

This is not a new way of thinking but it is definitely a challenging methodology.  Few rule books are available to guide one through this process quickly or effortlessly.  It requires self-awareness, commitment to change and willingness to embrace some risk.  At Transformative Leadership Group, we can help you expand your capabilities.