Disruptive innovation is just about that, an innovation that shakes the existing market, creating while displacing established market alliances. The phenomenon of disruptive innovation was coined by Clayton M Christensen. A concept confused with the words ‘innovation’ and ‘sustainable innovation’ yet worlds apart, is the oil used by companies that fight to survive the market.

How does this apply to current day corporate? Whitney Johnson, an author, a former business partner of Clayton Christensen, an investor and a speaker lays bare her thoughts on her book Disrupt Yourself. Being a music graduate who ended up in wall street in the late 80s, she started up at a secretary, taking business courses and moved up the ladder to investment banking and ended up cofounding an investment company with ‘the father of disruptive innovation’, Clayton Christensen developed an interest in learning how to drive corporate innovation through personal disruption. She assets that for organization to have an innovative culture, it boils down by individuals.

Conditions for an Organization to Undertake a Program of Disruptive Innovation

Whitney laid down several pointers that organizations should watch out for when encouraging disruptive innovation.

Willingness from the Whole Team

It takes the whole team to be willing and eager to embrace new ideas. From the bottom up. It is interesting to note that most of the low end, the ones in the frontier, in the field does come up with loads of ideas. They should be encouraged to make mistakes, there should be facilitated with enough resources to try out new ideas.

However, she notes that for a company to disrupt there has to be people who can disrupt. For this to happen, it needs people who know how to disrupt internally. The importance of driving disruptive innovation through personal disruption cannot be emphasized enough.

Encouraging Personal Disruption

One of the practical ways to encourage personal destruction is to encourage people within the organization to talk to different people. More often than not, individuals tend to be comfortable associating with people like them. Even in work places, they like to talk to people on the save level and the same department. A corporate culture that encourages coworkers to intermingle between different departments, to remove the titles in names, instead of CFO Sally, she is addressed as Sally. Have activities to see to it that, for instance, people in marketing mingling with people in accounting. These little shifts have a positive impact at in the long run.

Using the correct pronouns

It is easy to think of innovation as we against them, disrupter vs. disrupted. How are changes being handled within the organization? Foster an atmosphere of cohesion within the organization.  Such that innovation is not viewed as some sort of war. More often than not, whenever there is a new idea, other individuals in the same organization tend to suppress it because of the human nature. Everyone wants credit for a new idea, and if they are not the one coming up with it, they feel threatened. This is more so for the middle level management. This implies that they will most likely reject disruptive innovation from the lower end. This is where incentives come in. Whenever the middle level management is given incentives of coming up with ideas on how to make their departments come up with disruptive innovation, this insecurity will reduce. This clearly supports the notion that fear is the number one enemy of disruptive innovation.

How can this be tackled? Again, focusing on individuals is the key.

For Individuals in Organizations

Every company should endeavor to zero down to individuals, ensuring that they are challenging themselves day in day out. What are some of the practical ways to ensure so?

Encouraging Them to Get out of their Comfort Zone

Cheer on individuals to take on the projects that others do not want to take, the ones that are not so exciting. Ensuring that they focus on their strengths; learning how to play the strengths to the advantage of the team.

Acknowledge Success to the Entire Team

Another point is to embrace the notion of acknowledging success to a team. Using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ goes a long way. This is to be encouraged throughout the organization.

Encourage Failure

With disruption comes challenges and this might sometimes translate to failure. Allow employees to be vulnerable, to fail and to get right back again with more ideas. To be proactive, having in mind that the more they share, the more they learn. Endeavour to create an atmosphere that is driven by discovery.

Finally, individuals should not over thinking where any step will lead to. Taking a step at a time. There has to be willingness from individuals to not think ‘where all this will take me’. More often than not, individuals think of what they will gain, where their grand idea might take them and the likes. This is a recipe for disaster because it is not always a straight line as envisioned.

With the pointers, corporate should position themselves to innovate disruptively and avoid complacency. Let every individual in the organization sing the same song, the song of innovation. Companies that are on top of their game are constantly coming up with new ways to do things, new ways of operations and new products. This is a recipe for survival in this disruptive environment.


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