Those that follow me know that I have been studying disruptive innovation and writing about it for several years. They also know that I have disrupted my professional life at least once every decade. But what many do not fully recognize is that I’m a pretty traditional guy who likes tradition and stability. Much of the time I don’t want to change and have struggled with decisions. So I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way on more than one occasion. Sometimes things disrupt us but if we are wise leaders, we are the ones who are disrupting the world.
You also know that disruption changes the way we do things in such a way that we never want to go back to the previous method. Disruption is progress, not destruction.
When it comes to disrupting or being disrupted, we all have five choices to make.
First, Can You AVOID disruption?
We can choose to ignore the changes and live our lives as if the disruption was not occurring. Imagine using an old analog phone and trying to navigate to a new client. It won’t work. You might be able to dial 9-1-1 or call a friend or even call the client and ask for directions but your phone can’t navigate for you.
Avoiding the disruption of a new phone every couple years is fine if you want to make the “Amish” decision. They have chosen to stop at a certain point in history. While that is novel to visit, very few of us would choose to live in their communities because we appreciate the modern trends. We just wouldn’t be content without navigation, texting, internet, and document sending. Imagine trying to do business without those functions.
As much as we may want things to stay the same, they will not. Avoiding the situation won’t solve anything. Also, failing to change at the current speed of disruption will leave us falling behind. At that point, we are in trouble.
No, you cannot avoid disruption. To do so is a foolish choice. That is the first of our five choices.
How will you be disrupted by making this choice?
Second, Will You RESIST Disruption?
We might even feel that the disruption is wrong and that the current way or a previous way was better so we make the decision to resist disruption.
News Alert: Disruptive innovation doesn’t care what you think or feel. Progress waits for no one.
I’ve known a number of people who drag their feet when a disruption enters the marketplace. I recently had a conversation about disruption with two people in the legal field. When I mentioned the coming disruption via automation and artificial intelligence, they bristled at the idea. “I think we will always need attorneys. A computer just cannot do what they can.”
News Alert: That disruption is already happening in the legal transaction arena. Resisting the disruption isn’t going to keep it from happening.
Resisting disruption is also a poor choice. It might work for a short while but you will lose every time.
In the end, how will you disrupt or be disrupted by consistently making this choice?
Third, Should You Follow Disruption?
We are smart to associate with wise leaders and follow what they suggest. After all, don’t most of us wish we had followed Warren Buffet for the last 10 or 15 years and invested as he suggested? In that case, following is very good.
But following disruption poses a problem. Yes, it is good to get on board with the current trends, keeping up and not falling behind. That is a wise decision to make.
However, following only allows us to keep up. You will always be at least one step behind. In some ways, it is safer but you will always be dependent upon someone to lead you.
Many believe they don’t have the intelligence or resources to lead so they are content following. In a world of disruption, that means you have to be willing and able to keep up. That also means that if that leader makes a miscalculation, you will suffer. Your only option as a follower is to wait for someone to tell you what to do and where to go. That thinking limits our choices because we are dependent upon that leader.
While following is a good choice, there are better ones.
Fourth, Do You Have What it Takes to LEAD Disruption?
Leading is always better than following when you have the vision, resources, and energy. To lead disruption, you study the innovations and apply them to your industry. You don’t wait and see what others did or what results they got. That is following.
Unfortunately, many leaders are only followers with a position title. They are managing their organization, not leading it.
To lead disruption is to track the trends and forecast the opportunities. It is monitoring innovations in other industries and applying it to your own. Leading disruption is also re-engineering your team’s thinking to welcome change and innovations.
Leading disruption is a very smart choice but there might be an even better one for you.
Fifth, Can You CREATE Disruption?
Imagine being Anne Mahlum who started the homeless running and helped thousands return to productive lives.
Imagine being John Hunter who created the World Peace Game teaching fourth graders to solve global problems.
Now imagine being Ron Finley who became the Guerilla Gardner in South Central Los Angeles by planning organic gardens in common spaces to provide healthy food for his neighbors.
These individuals created disruptions. They didn’t wait to see what others were doing and integrate it in their industries but rather created a solution to a problem. They asked “What if?” and “Why Not?” They were not the heads of giant corporations like Apple, Microsoft or Amazon. Instead, they were obscure people doing leading their lives. Anne Mahlum was simply out for a run. John Hunter was just trying to begin a teaching career. Ron Finley was simply tired of not having good food to eat. They were ordinary people willing to disrupt the world around them to solve a problem.
Creating disruption is the best choice but it is ultimately up to you.
In the end, it is your decision. Which choice will you make to disrupt or be disrupted?
Loren Murfield, Ph.D.
I work with aspiring and emerging leaders to disrupt their team, leadership, and marketplace. Contact me to begin making your breakthrough.
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