Being disruptive is a new skill. I’m sure about this and I see reflections of this new need in everything that is happening in the market. However, for many of us, it is a real challenge to develop disruptive thinking ourselves and to cultivate it within teams and organizations.
In fact, there are not many who understand the meaning of disruption. There is a lot of buzz in almost every article describing disruption. The term came from the Theory of Disruptive Innovations developed by Clayton Christensen, Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School of Harvard University. But, today, I’m not writing about his research—the disruption I’m talking about is not related to his scientific results.
What is disruptive thinking?
Disruption as a skill is a new type of thinking. It is an ability to see more than just a given task. It is about being fearless by making small and big decisions and, what is even more important, it’s about the ability to realize and accept mistakes, even if it means starting from scratch.
Nowadays, with the market situation changing every day, you and your employees must be able to react as fast as possible. You must also be proactive.
Why is it important to think disruptively?
Disruptive thinking is necessary in discovering early stage strategic gaps and to create a fully agile organizational structure with communication—one that runs vertical and horizontal and in both directions. This type of thinking is a skill that allows people to see globally. They may see unexpected company changes not as a negative company situation, but as a necessary step in its positive development. Normally, everyone who has this ability is also a growth mindset thinker.
Being able to realize mistakes and be strong enough to communicate them to your team, boss, and colleagues is crucial. This can be done only by changing the internal culture at your organization along with management’s approach. We don’t manage human resources any more. Today, we are talking about “Human Management”. Seeing your employees in this way will allow them to fight five stop-factors that are preventing disruptive thinking.
Here are five whys that we need to overcome to develop disruptive thinking:
1. The famous dead horse rule. It makes no sense to flog a dead horse, but we do. It is always easier to stay in the zone of comfort and continue to “progress” and improve old things. This can even temporally improve results, but it is so important to remember that your competitors at that very same moment have already changed the horse, or the rider, or the road, or bought a car, and they are too far away to be overtaken.
To Dos: Motivate your team to actively share their opinion on the things/projects/activities they don’t believe in. Show them you trust their opinion and find out how long the horse has been dead or if it’s time is coming soon. Maybe there are other animals you have never noticed.
2. Treasure problem. Everything we are creating, everything we are investing in, holds a special value for us. We look after our results like a mother taking care of her baby. We don’t want to see the gaps or we are ready to “improve” inefficient working processes forever rather than full-out replacing them.
To Dos: 1. Teach your team to be keen about results, not the process. Set up result-oriented goals and think about motivation points. 2. Organize several simple team-building events that fit your industry and practice starting from scratch.
Example: Tibet monks practice patience and humility. They invest a lot of physical and spiritual efforts into creating their incredible mandalas from marble sand. Grain of sand by grain of sand, masterpieces are being created. But then the long process of creation ends with destroying the mandala within a moment. All efforts are gone forever and monks start a new mandala.
Find other ideas: sand castles, domino stone paths, puzzles, etc. If you have other ideas or experiences, please share them in comments.
3. Bandwagon effect. This well-known effect from the theory of customer choice and behavior works here perfectly. We are sure in things the crowd is doing/using/loving. We think: “I did use this successfully at my last project; my team has been implementing it this way since forever; all our partners are doing this; I read one expert’s opinion that it will finally work; authorities as well as millions of lemmings can’t be wrong!” Really?
To Dos: Try to evangelize individualism in your team. Every opinion, idea, and thought matters. Individualism within a team doesn’t divide it into separate independent actors. Just the opposite: it makes the team spirit grow through rising respect and the ability to listen and share.
4. Eating crow. This is a very unpleasant procedure. Are you ready to tell your colleagues, your team, and your boss that starting from scratch will be a better solution than to continue improving something old that will never work? Despite the fact that we hate to admit defeat and some of us don’t have this skill at all, we must start doing this.
To Dos: Communicate your own mistakes within the team, share what you learn from it. Be open to your employees and allow them to do the same. This is possible to achieve by showing positive reactions, executing situation analysis, and demonstrating a positive impact by finding mistakes in the early stages.
5. Thinking small. We are used to certain borders in everything we do and just don’t see the possibilities around us. We are used to having restrictions of different kinds from being managed by small thinking leaders. We even don’t assume the existence of other options. Very often, we are just too focused on current tasks and problems that we forget the big picture.
To Dos: It is time for everyone in your organization to see and to understand more about your company. Change the communication structure. Make teams and departments interact by having joint goals.
Communicate the company strategy to everyone to drive understanding that every role is important and impacts the end result. It doesn’t matter whether it is an assistant, developer, engineer, or manager—they have to realize that it is all about the company as a whole.
Change the vision of small thinkers. They will not help your company grow.
I believe that, by taking necessary actions, it is possible to develop disruptive thinking within teams and the whole organization. This must become a part of company culture. A company is made by people working together under its name. If they are disruptors, the company will be able to face any market challenges and challenge others.