You’re never too small to disrupt


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The ability to bring about positive disruption within a business has nothing to do with your place on the org chart. Try telling that to most employees. One comment that comes up every time I speak is that the audience participants feel powerless in their large corporations. Generally I am speaking with MBA students or the technical staff of large companies in technology, energy, telecommunications, finance and others. These are highly educated individuals who were hired for their talent, education and innovative thinking. Now these same people are disappointed that they are not allowed to create or innovate. They feel like drones. Yet without their creative talent their company is eventually doomed.

Disruption is not about creating chaos. Rather it is about harnessing the amazing collective capacity that people have to innovate. Companies require order to operate, but too often this manifests as command and control, ponderous titles and self-serving bureaucracy. Yet somehow, within this structure, disruption must occur.

If I am talking to engineers at Intel, the next chip design is not a free for all. But disruptive, innovative thinking drives everything. Is there a new way to design or fabricate the chip? Boeing did not design the groundbreaking 787 Dreamliner using a chaotic, open source methodology. But within the boundaries of the company’s structure, the leaders encouraged disruptive thinking that led to questioning everything about how a plane was built. That led to the first-ever carbon fiber commercial jet.

Traditional airlines used to tell me that change was impossible. Along came Virgin and changed the game. If you believe that innovation is impossible, then everything will stand still. In the Culture of Disruption, the first requirement is to look at your company, your job and your abilities and create a role for your intelligence and talent. You might have different, creative ideas that you have hidden away for the sake of getting along and meeting incremental goals. But is that making you happy? Instead, question how things are done. As long as you respect others and pose solutions rather than complaining, you can begin the wheels of disruption turning.

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