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PWCC Community Blog: Disrupt, Innovate, Change: A Pathway to Transformation

Posted By Administration, Monday, October 30, 2017


Innovation.  Change.  Disruption. Three words on an endless loop. And ones that can inspire resistance and sabotage if not presented as opportunity.


While the concepts of “innovation” and “change” are familiar markers in industry, it is the third concept of “disruption” that appears to bear the weight of the new.

The essence of disruption is not necessarily blowing things up but standing them on their heads to see them in a new way.  And therein lies the rub: perhaps the hardest thing to do is to see something familiar in a totally new light, from a new angle, or from another perspective.

Disruption is far more than brainstorming.  In “Disruptive Thinking: The Revolution is in Full Swing,” Luke Williams differentiates between brainstorming and disruptive thinking. “Unfortunately, most [brainstorming] methods focus on quantity and not quality. They typically start out with the goal of solving a specific business problem, and then come up with as many ideas as can fit within the constraints of that problem. Worse yet, traditional brainstorming completely overlooks the issue of what to do with those ideas after they’ve been generated.”

Disruptive thinking takes whole processes as its canvas and imagines entirely new ways to proceed, without constraints of industry, finances, or stakeholders.  Disruption asks questions like “how,” “why,” “what,” and “if” in an attempt to “see” something from an entirely new perspective, without a limit to the imagining.

Karima Mariama-Arthur believes there are five essential components to successful disruptive thinking:

  1. challenge the status quo;
  2. become comfortable with being uncomfortable;
  3. forget what other people think;
  4. become comfortable with failure;
  5. be boldly bold.

Clearly, a process not for the faint of heart!  But interestingly, and perhaps because it requires such a bold approach to the familiar, many believe that disruptive thinking is best practiced within a team…so that many eyes are asked to “see” something new as an answer to the what, how, why, and if.  And not surprisingly, disruptive teams work best when comprised of cross-departmental members so that differing philosophies and expertise such as designers, communicators, and IT specialists are included.

Once disruptive solutions are generated, a cross-disciplinary team can then also begin to shape disruptive solutions into an implementation roadmap.

This innovation phase facilitates the transformation of the why, what, how, and if into real steps that can be implemented, analyzed, and measured. Greg Satell understands well the bridge needed from disruptive thinking to innovation: “The tricky thing about disruptive innovations is that they rarely fit into existing business models and so the value they create isn’t immediately clear…It’s not just products that we have to innovate, but business models as well.”


The final step to transformation is implementation.  A successful organizational change management model ensures that change is smoothly and successfully executed. As many will attest, this can be the trickiest phase as it requires universal buy-in to avoid employee resistance and sabotage.


From Kotter to Prosci to Roger, organizational change models stress the importance of communicating: the urgent need for the disruption, the processes required for change implementation, and a clear pathways to effect this change. 


Regardless of the version being followed, most organizational change models include these facets: a clear case for and support of change from the organization’s leaders, involvement of all levels of employees (accomplished by developing cross-departmental teams), a clear communication plan that is structured and systematic, and an implementation plan that includes a timeline and training where and when needed for staff to embrace the changes required to status quo. 

When divided into disruption, innovation, and change implementation, transforming a way of thinking or doing business becomes an achievable goal that blends creativity with strategy, an unbeatable recipe for success.

Carol Jambor-Smith, Principal and Founder, Jambor-Smith Communications, strategic communications that engages, changes, and inspires.  carol@jamborsmithcommunications.com

Professional Women's Club of Chicago, PWCC is a Chicago based networking organization that provides networking connections that support, enrich and inspire women to advance professionally and personally. Members come from public and private sectors, multi-billion dollar corporations, mid-size and small businesses, as well as, non-profit organizations. Membership is open to women from all industries in all stages of their careers who want to develop a strong lifelong network. Learn more about membership and upcoming activities

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