The Paradox Of Disruptors In a Status Quo Organisational Culture


Corporations who have not made a commitment to disruption are guaranteed to either join the ranks of Kodak, Borders, and Blockbuster or sputter along as they try to stay profitable.

Organisations often lament the dearth of innovative leaders. There is a concern and sometimes fear, a valid fear, that the current pool of talent will not drive sustainable growth.

I would like to offer a challenge.

Talking with many of these leaders and discussing their ideas for strategic growth, there is no shortage of how they see their host organisations needing to evolve. They have a clear vision with real-time tactics for implementation. They have thought long and hard and are spot-on with their forward thinking.

I often ask the question: if you were CEO, what would you be doing differently to ensure your company stays relevant?

These leaders are laser focused, with a vision and underlying tactics for execution. The next step is to promote their change initiative and sell their strategy. This requires buy-in from key decision makers.

Organisations are now ripe for this evolution, as many have implemented innovation labs and hubs to stimulate disruptive thinking and attract new ideas for growth. Culturally they claim they have shifted and are keen to adopt a radical change in how they do business.

However, it is at this juncture that a challenge emerges.

Here is what’s interesting. If organisations are truly committed to change and espouse this as a mantra, why though, do these leaders often feel they are pushing insurmountable boulders up hill?

Seasoned leaders are realistic about change. They are not idealists and recognise that it takes incredible dedication, devotion and an unswerving tenacity to convince old ways of thinking to adopt, not just to a future-oriented business model, but a current one. These leaders recognise heavy lifting is required and sometimes takes a painstaking period of time.

Agile and nimble organisations that have, at the outset, an infrastructure of revolutionary ideas and creative talent do not have these kinds of hurdles. They do indeed have hurdles, but the challenges they face are of a different breed.

This is a wake-up call to the organisations that are currently lagging. Organisations that have historically been profitable and sit at the top of the heap have for decades, and in some cases centuries, have been in a lofty place. When you have achieved greatness as an organisation and have a majority of the market share or a dominant position, then you are at great risk. Some would disagree with this statement.

When you are number one in your field or industry sector, you run the risk of being fat and lazy. This breeds either myopia or arrogance. Either way, these organisations despite a public and internal commitment to required and sometimes radical change are not able to move the dial.

This is a shame, as dedicated, passionate, and invested talent soon becomes disheartened. Over time this talent becomes disillusioned, restless, and ultimately disengaged. These leaders are now ripe for poaching as they actively position themselves to join a competitive organisation.

Companies who promote from within clearly demonstrate that they foster loyal talent and mitigate retention risks. There is a lot to be said for organisations that have a healthy respect and regard for institutional knowledge.

There is a caveat to this. For there to be any truth to this mantra, C-suite leaders must not just acknowledge the necessity for change, but truly empower their change agents.

This is a warning call, as the best and brightest are now departing these organisations. Entrepreneurial thinking can never be harnessed so rest assured these thought disruptors will take their ideas elsewhere. They have a passion to change the world and make it a better place.

This is only true if you are prepared to capitalise on this talent. If not, these leaders will cross the street, and staying relevant and profitable as a company is at great risk. Organisations must wake up to the sheer fact that losing these change agents is a significant liability and a competitor’s win.

As an organisation, your disruptors are your best return on your investment. Companies that realise this, position themselves for a sustainable future.