Anyone Can Disrupt
If you’re one player in a big company, you can’t be a disruptor, right? Wrong. You were hired because you are smart, educated and innovative. You have a responsibility to disrupt the way things are done when it will serve your company and its stakeholders.
In my book, Provoke, I write that employees are critical players in the Culture of Disruption. When I speak to corporations, I often have several hundred employees in the audience. When I start talking about their “power,” I always get skeptical looks, followed by questions like “Don’t you know I am only one of more than 100,000 employees?”
Several hours later, when the talk is over, I’m always surrounded by dozens of those same people, talking excitedly. The same people who were cynics a few hours before are now talking about what is possible and how much power they have. That turnaround in attitude keeps me going. It’s a thrill to empower people to be centers of disruption.
I explain to my listeners that their corporation is made up people who make decisions. Every one is an employee just like them. I remind them that they are there because the company recruited them for their talent, intelligence, skill and drive. So what happens from hiring day to the present? These talented folks get slotted into repetitive, uninspiring legacy projects. Add politics, performance review worries and the implied pressure to go alone with the status quo (as well as, today, the fear of losing a job) and it’s easy to see how geniuses can become cynical drones convinced that nothing can ever change.
However, here is the secret I impart to these designers, programmers, engineers and mathematicians: they have a strong voice. No company ignores true talent. They might misuse it, but they will always leverage it when they know about it. When someone speaks up, takes charge and offers solutions, management listens. The problem is that the many highly talented people have given up or are giving up. That once-coveted engineering/design/biotech/research/ job has become just the means to a paycheck.
Then, instead of 20,000 vibrant, talented, creative people who are centers of disruptive thinking and innovation, we have 20,000 robots in structured groups with narrowed focuses, delivering minor updates to legacy garbage when they could be changing the world. What company doesn’t want genius? Who can afford to lose talented people?
This is the part my audiences dislike: the responsibility for putting yourself in position to be a disruptor is yours. Your boss will not come to you one day out of the blue, declaring that you are a genius who should be given more opportunities. But you can influence the thinking of your superiors. If you are a brilliant, innovative thinker, no one can take that away from you. Many of you whom I meet are extremely bright, driven and talented. If you’ve been at your job for fifteen years and hate it because you could be doing so much more, it’s time to speak up. There’s never been a better time.
Picked up a copy of Provoke yet? You can find it on Amazon. All my best,