Expert Advice for Medium and Midsize Businesses

To Grow Your Company, You Must First Disrupt Yourself

Businesses don’t disrupt; people do.

Everybody must have a mantra these days. This is mine. I’ve been studying personal disruption for some time now and I’ve become increasingly convinced my mantra is true. Businesses consist of holdings—office buildings, warehouses, desks and chairs, sophisticated machinery, and electronics. They’re shells: inanimate, creating nothing. Like a beehive, minus the bees. It’s pretty difficult to get honey that way.

Two things are required to breathe life into the shell to achieve innovation, growth, and productivity. One, it requires people who move and work and do–people who think. Two, it requires intellectual property—see number one.

Without people thinking, evolving, and inventing, business doesn’t happen. Companies don’t come to be; they certainly don’t grow. The disruption that sparks innovation and fuels change is like a metabolic function happening at the cellular level. Without it, the whole organism withers. When it’s clicking along as it should, the larger whole is lively, replenishing, expanding.

Here are three accelerants that can enable personal disruption for you and your team:

Play to Strengths

If you’re a sole proprietor and the only, lonely CEO-to-custodial-staff rolled into one person, then you need to consider your strengths. What are you not only good at, but uniquely good at—the thing(s) that those around you aren’t especially adept to do? If your little company isn’t employing those strengths, it needs to be. If you’re a manager of others, you need to evaluate not only your strengths but those of all your team members. What are everyone’s distinctive strengths? What is the whole team especially capable of? How can you deploy (disrupt) people to tap into those superpowers? Disrupting to take advantage of strength is a winning strategy.

Battle Entitlement

We’ve all heard the marvelous tales of businesses started in the garage or basement, now grown to massive international scale. We see their founders named on lists of the world’s wealthiest people. Maybe we believe we can do that; maybe we believe we’re entitled to that success. Or maybe our aspirations are a little smaller: we should get a raise, a promotion, an important project, or receive accolades for accomplishment. Expectations of this sort are still entitlement. They strangle innovation and impede energizing disruption. Instead of actively seeking improvement, the entitled are too busy waiting for reward.

Make Failure Your Friend

It’s amazing what we can learn from a good failure—or two, or ten. Trying something new is inevitably risky; failure is always a real possibility. When we venture into new, uncharted territory, we are courting failure. Creating a safe haven for people to fail is critical for disruption to occur. If individuals fear retaliation or similar negative consequences when an initiative goes off the rails, they will be afraid to venture forth. That leaves us stuck in the station, heading nowhere. The adage, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” is reality. At the very least, failure teaches us what doesn’t work, allowing us to explore new, potentially more fruitful fields.

Whether yours is a business contemplated, a start-up of two or twenty, or a full-blown but still smallish business of 200, I encourage you to disrupt yourself and encourage—even push—your employees to disrupt themselves. Disruption keeps us challenged with new problems to solve, side-stepping the boredom and stagnation that are too common as work becomes rote. Individual disruptions produce the energy that vitalizes the whole.


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