There are two ways to look at disruption.
The first one is to be Zen-like and let the future unfold on its own, organically. The second one is to strike a spark, within our minds first, and then let the flames mold the world.
We would not qualify as the fittest of all the species if we just sat back and let external change take total control of our own evolution. We stand apart from all other species because we make choices and take a step ahead. Thus, we need not just stay ahead of the curve but influence the occurrence of curves.
First, let’s get cognizant of what is changing at an unprecedented pace around us and then figure a way out to step ahead of it.
What is changing rapidly is data exchange, amounts of automation, computing in the cloud and the interactions between these artificial, systemic intelligences with humans and the human mind in real-time.
Though these changes are, originally and essentially, human created and did not drop from unknown heavens, they are creating a sense of trepidation and massive uncertainty among the larger part of the population. It is like all the futuristic stories and the science fiction we created a hundred years ago is becoming reality. It is like all of Isaac Asimov’s imaginations are coming alive. It is like the heavens are sneering down at us and saying “You are getting what you wished for.”
While it is true that 4.0 is our own creation many sectors and industries have no idea what to do. Some believe digitizing and automating their work will place them ahead of the curve. Others are hoping these waves of change will pass them by and they will be good like before. Consider the impact this change has had on traditional publishing, traditional travel services and, of course, the traditional taxi services. In Mumbai, last month, I saw scores of the yellow-black cabs collecting dust by the road-sides and those that were moving were actually stumbling through the times with drivers from times gone by.
To ride these waves of change, don’t play the game ‘tag’ but play ‘follow the leader.’
Recognize that disruption is not just change or adapting to change. Disruption is also not just thinking creatively of innovating. Disruption is smashing the fish bowl onto the ground and making sure that the fish learn to fly and breathe air through their gills. Disruption is putting off all the lights of the world and using the moon to brighten the earth. Disruption is accepting nothing as the status quo and then deeply connecting large variables with precision and razor sharpness.
Think about that. Companies and business models like SpaceX, Airbnb and Uber did not even exist in the wildest dreams of business leaders and innovators twenty years ago. And, given what is looming in the near future, the imaginations off Isaac Asimov will appear like child’s play.
In the world of learning and development where I hail from we believe in the habits of storming, forming and norming. In the world of ancient myth and spirituality it is believed that the world is created, sustained and then disrupted. There are parallels in these beliefs and storming and disruptions are necessary for renewals and evolutions.
Here are three ideas on how business leaders can empower their organizations and positive influence disruption.
1. Hunger with the fact that you need to disrupt your own belief systems and mindsets before you influence the world around you to become new. Do the same with your people.
2. Practice emotional grit and resiliency towards setback and failures. Empower your people and give them huge space to fail. Recognize that failure is cornerstone for all success. The iPhone did not just come along. Others like Nokia, Handspring and Blackberry had to fail for it to be born.
3. Recognize interconnectedness and think in systems. Make learning and agility your daily mantra. Everything is about learning. Everything needs to be stormed, formed and then normed and stormed again.
Revolutions and renewals require courage to take action despite uncertainty. There are no best practices and no strategies that guarantee success. And, as with all things in life, the first step is the hardest. Lift the first stone of your choice and then slam it down to break ground for a brand new world.