Scott Volkert
Scott Volkertposted on on September 15, 2016

When our lives are disrupted, it feels uncomfortable. And it's not necessarily viewed as a positive. We may recall in our school days, when a teacher scolded a student for being “disruptive” in class, the connotation wasn't positive. Penalties typically ensued.

In today's business world, disruption is embraced and celebrated. The Netflix case study has been written about endlessly, serving as the poster child for disruption. In fact, companies passionately talk about how they need disruptors on their team, and encourage others to challenge how things are being done at every step of the process.

Being disruptive for the sake of being disruptive is not a good thing. Little Johnny shouldn't get patted on the back for disturbing the diligent work of everyone else in class. But disruption for the betterment of everyone is a just cause, and should be the impetus for positive change.

So, if you can find a way to do something 10 times better than the status quo, then be as disruptive as you possibly can. Just consider the following tips when doing so:

  1. Determine the who rather than the what. Disrupting a process to make it more efficient is fine, but we must always consider who will benefit. If the company benefits, but the clients do not, keep searching for a way that serves all stakeholders.
  2. All aboard. The entire organization must be in lock-step for change to take place. This cannot be some sort of “behind-the-scenes” deal, because resistance will happen and the pace of positive change will slow.
  3. Change comes from the outside. When a baseball team fails to win, the manager gets fired. Oftentimes, to make impactful changes, a replacement is hired from outside the organization, as opposed to recycling an internal coach. The moral to the story is that we always must seek outside perspectives, and push aside our biases and preconceived notions of how things are or should be.

According to the "2015 ANA’s Marketer’s Edge" report, there are five red flags that prevent us from making the positive changes we crave. Ironically, they mostly relate to the lack of customer centricity that's critical to any organization’s success. According to the report, the red flags are:

  1. A lack of focus – You can't be everything to everyone. This diffuses resources and strains the organization.
  2. Hunting for capabilities – The proliferation of technologies and the complexity of Omnichannel customer experiences require new capabilities, and marketers must be on the hunt for them.
  3. Customer experience – Only 13 percent cited C-level leaders as being very effective in focusing on the key customer journey metrics needed to drive the business. Without clarity about what matters to customers, or the ability to articulate that as a strategy, business leaders will have significant issues delivering growth.
  4. Too data-driven – The ability to make data-informed decisions was the top mover in terms of the capabilities that marketers deemed important. However, only 10 percent of marketers believe they were very effective at using insights into customer behaviors to improve performance.
  5. Slow pace – Top-performing companies have flexible models and agile ways of working so that things get done fast. Despite the move to more networked marketing organizations, almost 60 percent of initiatives take at least six months to make it to market.

Disruption may be getting a lot of buzz these days, but changing for positive impact is not quite as colorful. It takes grit, collaboration and an unrelenting customer-oriented mindset. In other words, true disruptors have the best interests of others in mind and are willing to work hard for a greater purpose.

Source for the ANA study: http://disruption.ana.net