Are You Leveraging Disruption? Three Questions to Ask Right Now

Want to Leverage Disruption? Three Questions to Ask Right Now

This is the first in a series of posts by resident expert on disruption, organisational strategist and corporate facilitator Larry Quick.


Are You Disruption-Ready? (3 Questions)

There are just three questions you need to ask yourself right now if you want your organisation to leverage disruption:

  1. Does your executive team have an aligned view of disruption?
  2. Is your strategy focused on leveraging disruption?
  3. Are your key stakeholders committed to taking action?

That’s it. Your answers to those three questions mean everything.

Disruption can be defined as any development that creates a new market while destroying or displacing another. Disruption tends to challenge any black-and-white thinker. That’s because there’s no clean separation between opportunity and risk—it all depends on how you approach it.

Disruption: development that creates a new market while destroying or displacing another. Click To Tweet
Let’s consider a few scenarios:

You work in finance. The convergence of Blockchain and Bitcoin may herald in an entirely new business model in your industry.

You work in health care. New analytic capabilities will allow some organisations in your field to diagnose diseases at the touch of a button.

You work in resources. Improved technologies in power storage and distribution threaten to appropriate market share.

You work in manufacturing. The convergence of 3-D printing and ultra-light materials at scale is about to wreak havoc on your industry.

You work in customer service. Sophisticated digital interfaces and artificial intelligence could displace many of your company’s services.

Free Download
Download a copy of The Disruption Report 2016: What Australian Business Leaders Think to learn:

  • The 6 key emergent themes on disruption
  • Opportunities and risks inherent in the current climate
  • What Australian business leaders are doing right now about disruption

Do these developments make you fearful or excited?

Disruption-ready organisations and individuals have made leveraging change on the horizon a way of life. They understand that change marches onward —and with increasing speed. Technology, politics, culture, the environment — all these factors and more are driving historical change at an exponential clip.

It isn’t just you — the pace of change is exponential — and impacts everything. One day a company like Amazon can disrupt brick and mortar retailers by operating with low margins. And then, out of nowhere, a company like Alibaba can ease consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer, and business-to-business sales with zero margins.

The disruptor can always become the disrupted. Disruption never plays favourites.

So given the unrelenting and exponential pace of change, how can you make disruption your friend? How can you prepare yourself to benefit from, rather than fall afoul of, disruption’s creative destruction?

Disruption never plays favourites. The disruptor can always become the disrupted. Click To Tweet

If my years coaching organisations contending with the risks and opportunities of this disruptive age have taught me anything, it’s that preparation beats passivity. So once again, to gauge how prepared you are to meet with disruption, there are three questions you need to ask yourself right now:

  1. Does your executive team have an aligned view of disruption?
  2. Is your strategy focused on leveraging disruption?
  3. Are your key decision-makers committed to taking action?

1. Does your executive team have an aligned view of disruption?

Executive team in alignment

Disruption-ready organisations and individuals don’t march to the beat of vision statements that are perennially out of step with reality. They aren’t led around by vague aspirations or myopic mission statements. Rather, they work under leaders who have a realistic and shared view of disruption. These leaders plug into real-world conditions, always seeking ways to leverage disruption for the benefit of their organisations.

Disruptive leaders plug into real-world conditions Click To Tweet

These leaders also know that disruption goes far beyond the digital. Disruption-readiness isn’t about commissioning a new app or a prettier website. For these plugged-in and agile leaders, disruption is a 360-degree phenomenon, coming at them from every conceivable angle. For example, a disruption-ready leader won’t bemoan the instabilities of a globalised economy. Rather, she will be busy figuring out ways to market her products to transitioning economies in the developing world.

Does your leadership truly “get” disruption? Do the people in charge agree with each other about how disruption might impact their organisation? Do they have a shared view of how the organisation must move forward to meet with challenges? Or do they rigidly defend outdated strategies and delusional mission statements?

In other words, does your leadership:
  1. Have a common understanding of what disruption is and how it might impact your organisation?
  2. Consciously and openly agree that disruption exists to be leveraged?
  3. Take the exponential (increasingly rapid) nature of disruption into account? Do they understand how much time remains before disruptive changes cause an irreversible impact on your organisation?
  4. Know what Managed Adaptive Decline or MAD is? Do they adapt to declining conditions in a well-managed manner, akkin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic? Has your organisation fallen prey to MAD?

2. Is your strategy focused on leveraging disruption?

Executive team in alignment

If you produce a product that generates 45% of your company’s revenue, how attached to that precious little widget are you likely to be? If you were Steve Jobs, surveying the shifting sands of digital disruption in 2005, the answer would be not so much.

You can be the disruption or be disrupted. Click To Tweet

That year, Apple sold 20 Million iPods, the wondrous MP3 player that put whole music collections into people’s pockets. But Jobs, as a leader plugged into real-world emerging conditions. He noticed cell phones with cameras were gobbling up the digital camera’s market share. He foresaw the same fate befalling the iPod. He had a choice: watch the iPod get decimated by some competitor’s music-playing phone, or stay a step ahead by having Apple produce its own.

In fact, that’s always the choice: stay ahead of disruption to reap its benefits, or lag behind to taste its consequences. Disruption-ready organisations produce strategies that focus on leveraging opportunity and mitigating risk—and all in one fell swoop. Just like Apple did in 2005 (among many other times). Think of it this way: you can be the disruption or be disrupted.

Does your strategy reflect shifting real-world conditions? Or is it backward-looking, overly attached to past or present successes?


Free Disruption Report

Download The 2016 Disruption Report to learn:

  • The 6 key emergent themes on disruption
  • Opportunities and risks inherent in the current climate
  • What Australian business leaders are doing right now about disruption


Does your team:

1. Have a shared understanding of what immediate and emergent conditions (i.e. factors that influence outcomes) are especially relevant to your organisation?
2. Understand which of these conditions constitute “disruptors”? Or factors that have the potential to change the game for your organisation?
3. Identify both the strategic risks and strategic opportunities within these disruptors?
4. Understand how both these risks and opportunities might impact your organisation’s ability to generate sustainable value? That is, to be an organisation, like Apple, that people count on to meet their needs?
5. Understand what capabilities you need to generate that value — and how, if they’re missing, you can get them and at what cost?
6. Have the capability to keep up with the speed and impact of disruption?

3. Are your key decision makers committed to taking action?

Executive team in alignment

Look, everybody likes a good Steve Jobs story. It’s in vogue to muse about the impact of digital, or the need for innovation, or the merits of visionary leadership. But leveraging disruption is hard work. It’s not a managerial tweak or food for thought at your next corporate getaway.

Disruption-ready organisations do whatever it takes to harness change. Click To Tweet

It’s a commitment to re-think the capability your team needs to become agile in the face of exponential change.

Disruption-ready organisations do whatever it takes to harness change to produce value for their customers and shareholders. It’s part of their culture. Is your organisation prepared to do what it takes?

Does your organisation:
  1. Have the support of senior decision makers to make disruption-leveraging a priority?
  2. Have the support of stakeholders (e.g. board members, shareholders, line management, staff) to make the necessary adjustments to leverage disruption?
  3. Have the resources to develop a strategic response to disruption?
  4. Have the willingness to invest in training staff to take on the challenge of leveraging disruption?

So, three questions. Ask them right now.

Be honest with yourself. If you put off asking them because you’re not sure you want to hear the answers, chances are disruption won’t arrive as a friend. But don’t lose hope. As of right now, you still have time to put your house in order. Just not a lot of time.

If you are able to answer yes to these three questions, fear not. Chances are you will find a niche within disruption to generate value, remain relevant, and do more than just weather the shocks. You’ll actually enjoy the ride.


Next steps


About the Author

Larry Quick

An expert in the field of disruption and strategy, Larry runs workshops, seminars and master classes to support organisations, teams and leaders to leverage – rather than fall prey to – exponential, disruptive change. Learn more about how Larry can help your organisation navigate its way through a disruptive environment.

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