The Power of Disruption
A few months ago I came across a book, “Disrupt Yourself – Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work” by Whitney Johnson. I wasn’t looking for it, but it was mentioned in an article. I had a funny feeling I should read it, and as soon as I did, I knew why…because when used in the right way, disruption is a powerful thing.
The decision to approach our agency business in a very different way (technologically and philosophically) was leaving me with a combination of exhilaration, anxiety, discomfort, excitement and hope…all at the same time. I couldn’t quite figure out what to make of it. The theory of disruptive innovation explained exactly what was happening and gave it useful perspective.
Johnson writes, “Disruptive innovation is a term coined by Clayton Christensen that describes an innovation at the low end of the market that eventually upends an industry.” As a starting place for the concept, this is very specific. However, as you read on it becomes clear that there are many iterations, both professional and personal. Using E.M. Rogers S-curve model as a way of illustrating the process helps to visualize when and how it is occurring.
In her blog on leanin.org, Johnson calls it surfing the S-curve. “Mastering it, she adds suggests that your odds of success will be 6x higher, your revenue opportunity 20x greater. Not just for your product, service, company or country, but for you. Surfing the S-curve requires acknowledging this phenomenon, and generating our own wave, which we can ride to new levels of success.” Disruptive ideas are adopted slower at the onset and once adequate momentum is gained, slip into hyper-growth. As the potential of the idea is reached there is a slowing of the momentum. For someone like me, that last part can can be summed up as “I’m bored”!
Disruption for Dummies
Johnson breaks down the disruptive innovation process into seven variables that you’ll want to consider (noted below) and consciously navigate in order to capture the full potential of your efforts. These can speed up or slow down your movement on the S-curve. The portfolio of stories provided is a great illustration of the many faces of disruption and can help the reader to consider how scenarios might play out.
- Take the right risks
- Play to your distinctive strengths
- Embrace Constraints
- Battle Entitlement
- Stepping back to grow
- Giving failure it’s due
- Be driven by discovery
The Psychology of Disruption
Disruption is a learning process and learning does not follow a straight line either. Johnson explains it like this:
“As we launch into something new, understanding that progress may at first be almost imperceptible helps keep discouragement at bay. It also helps us recognize why the steep part of the learning curve is so fun. When you are learning, you are feeling the effects of dopamine. It’s an office dweller’s version of thrill seeking. Once we reach the upper flat portion of the S-curve and things become habitual or automatic, our brains create less of these feel-good chemicals and boredom can kick in, making an emotional case for personal disruption. At a career peak, there is certainly the specter of competition from below, but just as importantly, there’s a risk that if we aren’t on a curve that satisfies us emotionally, we may be the cause of our own undoing.”
Given our agency’s goal of working with clients that are open to change and motivated to grow, it makes sense that I was drawn to the theory of disruptive innovation. If you find yourself considering transformative changes to your business to drive substantial growth, then “Disrupt Yourself – Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work” might be the book for you.
Bottom line, be open minded, inspired and brave and ride that wave…most of all, make sure you have fun along the way.