Why It’s Time To Get Personal About Disruption

February 24, 2015

605″][vcex_spacing size=”80px”]‘Those who can successfully navigate, even harness the successive cycles of learning and maxing out… will thrive in this era of personal disruption.’

– Whitney Johnson ‘ Throw Your Life A Curve’
 More and more leaders are talking openly about disruption. Not only it’s impact on the market place but on their organisations and their people. No longer is the term disruption simply reserved for the world of start-ups or the technology landscape in that far, far away land called Silicon Valley. It is very much a part of the here and now for all leaders and it is personal! The simple truth is that if we aren’t disrupting we are reacting to it

This reality brings with it a host of challenges, least of all how to effectively navigate and lead in environments where many of the traditional mindsets and behaviours no longer apply – and where uncertainty prevails. How do I motivate, encourage and reward my team when there is no footprint for what we are trying to do? How do I manage my own career in this landscape?

Our ability as leaders to make good decisions and choices is instrumental to our business and personal success. Ironically though for many organisations the tendency to rely on what was once a good decision and the subsequent failure to recognise that changing times require new decisions is ultimately their downfall. This failure to do so sees them being swallowed up by competitors whose innovation and responsiveness sees them grab both market share and talent.

Current statistics suggest that we will change careers on average seven times in our lifetime – not change jobs but change careers! We are educating our children for careers that currently do not exist; and if they do will be delivered in ways that are not yet currently seen. We are witnessing the demand for jobs that require repetitive process and clerical and support skill sets massively decline. Replacing them is a demand for ever-evolving digital skill sets, creative thinking and many of the previously considered ‘soft’ skills of influencing, negotiation and collaboration. For those of us whose careers are underpinned by university degrees, the recent discussions suggesting that the life span of this knowledge and skill set is as short as three years is both confronting and challenging.

To create a sustainable career, we will need to face up to a world of disruption, master the art of career and leadership reinvention and continually focus on adding new skills and capabilities to our existing repertoire. Personal reinvention is hard. But so to is living with the risk of becoming irrelevant.

In their book, The Innovator’s DNA, Jeffrey Dyer and Clayton Christensen identify five behaviours that characterise innovative leaders: Associating (the ability to make connections across unrelated ideas or problems), Questioning, Observing, Networking and Experimenting. These leadership behaviours not only support the generation of new ideas but the timely planning and execution of them into the market place so as to ensure an organisation achieves significant competitive advantage.

In addition to developing these behaviours for ourselves, we as leaders need to ensure that we are creating environments where they are allowed to flourish for the people we lead. Given that these environments are rich in ambiguity and uncertainty, encouraging people to step outside of their comfort zone and embrace the unknown is a challenge for all leaders today.[vcex_spacing size=”10px”]To do this I believe that the following additional behaviours are key to ensuring personal success in the disruptive landscape:

  • Start being comfortable being uncomfortable:  Navigating the unknown with out the comfort of a detailed roadmap and/or pre determined destination is all part of the disruptive journey. The ability to cope with the element of surprise – and not eliminate it as so many traditional leaders do – is also critical.
  • Adopt a ‘Leapfrog Mindset’: This term is borrowed from Soren Kaplan who states that leading disruption requires a mindset focused on ‘leapfrogging’ – creating or doing something radically different to produce a significant leap forward. In doing so, leaders provide both their businesses and themselves with a significant point of difference by ensuring they add a completely new level of value to the market.
  • Trust your gut: Often when making ‘big’ decisions we as leaders like to gather all the data we can, spend time analyzing it and debating it. The reality is that when you are leading through disruption this data (or level of data) rarely exists. You need to gather information from a variety of sources – often by using the 5 behaviours identified by Dyer and Christensen referenced above – weigh it up and then trust your gut and intuition for the rest.
  • Invest in your health: Navigating the disruptive landscape requires a high degree of mental and physical resilience. You will need bucket loads of energy to not only generate new ideas, but to quickly change direction, adapt plans, problem solve and engage with others to execute outcomes.
  • Commit to being a life long learner: Where we start is not where we finish. Our ability to continuously add new skills and knowledge to our repertoire is critical for our growth and development. However so to is the ability to give up the skills that no longer apply or what once may have made your successful. Ongoing learning and curiosity is crucial for both our own careers and the businesses that we lead.
  • Invest in your networks: Understanding the power of your network and actively collaborating and engaging with them has enormous potential to achieve unprecedented results, provide completive advantage and differentiate you and your business in the market place.
  • Redefine what success looks like: When we are actively pursuing different ways of doing things, entering into unknown markets or exploring new careers for ourselves we need to redefine what success looks like. The tools and frameworks that we have typically used before need to be adapted. Not every pathway that we explore will result in the breakthroughs or desired outcomes but if it brings us closer to our goal, hones our strategy, eliminates what doesn’t work, or isn’t right for us then we are moving forward.
  • Go after the disruptive path: In his book The Innovators Dilemma, Clayton Christensen found that companies pursuing growth in new markets were 6 times more likely to succeed than companies seeking growth in existing markets. Going after the unexplored or the unknown sees the odds of success go up. The same can be said for us as leaders and individuals.

To lead and succeed in a world of disruption we need to acknowledge that it is not easy or straightforward. It requires new mindsets, behaviours and skill sets. One person’s challenge though is another’s opportunity. It all depends on how we view it.[vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][vc_single_image image=”126″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”none”]If you would like to discuss ways to navigate your career and harness potential please contact Margot directly on margot@talentinsight.com.au or +61 3 9866 3842.[vcex_divider style=”solid” icon_color=”#000000″ icon_size=”14px” margin_top=”20px” margin_bottom=”20px”][vc_single_image image=”88″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”none” link=”http://talentinsight.us3.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=961a17dac8287c94458c7983d&id=f81e0aac65″]