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Disruption – Are You Ready for It?

By Fran Cherny
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Disruption here, disruption there, disruption everywhere… It’s a buzzword, but what does it really mean?

I define disruption as the speed in which change happens, the acceleration it takes, and how fast it impacts other parts of the system. “The butterfly effect at the speed of light” — it alters the way you live, the way you engage with others, and the way you do business.

Disruption can be a threat to your business if you are the “disrupted” (think about Uber toppling the taxi and transportation industry), or it can be an advantage if you are the “disruptor” (at least, for some time). There have been many articles written about disruption, but I have found very few that talk about how to respond to it (especially if others depend on you as a leader).

Let’s refer to the iceberg model from one of my previous articles 

We believe the key to be able to respond to disruption is to look at our consciousness at the “being” level — gaining awareness of how we respond, when we are triggered or reactive, and how to recover faster when we are being triggered; identifying the triggers and consciously choosing how we will respond when new situations emerge. We will be tempted to think we know the answer, but we might be facing a problem we had not encountered before.

We need to be resilient (defined as the ability to recover faster and faster) at the “being” level in order to face and respond to disruption, as our egos will be challenged and at risk. How can you build a culture of resilience in your organization where egos or attachment are not getting in the way? Prepare your leaders and employees to face any situation they might encounter.

We will discuss three different “viruses” we see in organizations that work against building this resilience and the ability to respond:

  • Lack of curiosity, openness and acceptance of the status quo. We call this the “knower” or “fixed” mindset.
  • Lack of responsibility or ownership to respond and the speed with which we act. We call this the “victim” mindset.
  • The dangers of multitasking and not valuing the power of focus on a single task at a time. We call this the “multitasker.”

 

Lack of curiosity, openness and acceptance of the “status quo”

 

“I think there is a world market for about five computers.”

— Remark attributed to Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of the Board of International Business Machines (IBM), 1943

 

“We don’t like their sound. Group guitars are on their way out.”

— Decca Records on rejecting the Beatles

 

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”

— Harry Warner, Warner Bros. 1927

 

What did you think when you read those statements? We can’t imagine our lives without computers. The Beatles became one of the biggest music success stories. And can you imagine movies without actors talking?

All of these examples disrupted their industries in a big way. Thankfully, there were others who believed in computers and The Beatles.

These statements all lack curiosity, which can be very dangerous. What if The Beatles had given up after speaking with Decca records?

Have you ever been in a meeting listening to the presenter and think to yourself “Wow, that will never work. What a stupid idea.”?

A good example of this is the Blockbuster story. Remember them? (Because many children today don’t!)  Netflix met with Blockbuster executives to propose a partnership, but Blockbuster laughed at the idea and didn’t agree. The rest is history.

Imagine how things would have been different if they had moved away from their “fixed” mindset and had been open to the partnership.

It is very easy to shut down others because we have a belief. That’s why the “knower” is a very dangerous mindset to be in. We believe our own opinion is the truth. We have been telling ourselves stories all our lives, but the danger comes when we start to believe our stories and are no longer open for other ideas to emerge.

 

Lack of responsibility or ownership to respond, and the speed with which we act

 

“Mommy, the toy broke.”

“The milk spilled.”

“He started it.”

 

For those who have children, you are probably very familiar with these statements or can think back to your own childhood. Now read the statements again. How do you think the toy broke? Who spilled the milk? Who started it? These are exactly the same as:

“The project got delayed.”

“The previous meeting ran late.”

“Accounting didn’t get me the report.”

 

On a bigger scale, this turns into a blame game, where the focus is on who created the problem. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a good example of the different parties not wanting to take responsibility for what happened. And that became a PR disaster.

Blaming external circumstances for something that occurred without you being part of it or having any ownership in it might be a good short-term strategy to keep your ego safe, but it will not help your business at all in the long term.

While you are all discussing whom to blame, someone is looking for the solution you need, and they will probably beat you to it.

This level of complacency can put your organization at a disadvantage.

 

The dangers of multitasking

In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers use their cellphone while driving

These numbers are very big and very concerning. We all know it, and yet we still do it. How can that be?

In organizations, multitasking has become the norm and is no longer an exception. It’s often even valued as an asset. Do you recall your last meeting? How many people were listening and at the same time looking at their phones? Have you dialed in for a conference call and at the same time responding to emails?

I am afraid I have to burst your bubble. Multitasking might be very good for some things, but you can’t apply it to everything. Effective multitasking is a myth and also very counterproductive.

Take driving for example. At any given time, we need to focus on the road ahead, look in the rearview or side mirrors, control our speed, apply the right amount of pressure to the gas pedal, and maybe even look at the GPS for direction. We may have mastered this art, but adding talking on the phone, texting or having an argument with another passenger in the car is where you push the limit and it becomes counterproductive.

When does your multitasking go too far?

 

But what next?

My invitation to you is to reflect on these three viruses:

  • Do you observe yourself displaying any of these behaviors? What about people around you?
  • Can you think of any situation in which displaying these behaviors impacted people negatively or hurt the business?

In my next article, we will unpack the antidotes to each of these viruses.

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