Disrupt Yourself Before Someone Else Does

To avoid disruption, we must constantly innovate. Kevin Freiberg shares how:

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The status quo doesn’t give in easily.  It’s designed to protect itself. It wields fear as one of its most powerful weapons.

Disruption rarely comes from within because incumbents are held hostage by fear—by the old ways of doing things. The result is mimicry—half-hearted, not-quite-there, me-too products and services.

It’s hardly a recipe for growth. When you stop bringing something fresh and exciting to the game, the game is over.

Outsiders compete differently. They don’t care about the old rules. What if you could get people to think like outsiders and innovators—to move with a sense of urgency and say, “YES” to new ideas, new relationships, new business models—and grow?

Innovators. Here are some clues to how they THINK and what they DO:

  1. Everyone innovates. This is because everyone is creative. Ignore this at your own risk. With the new tools of technology employees in your organization are creating Web sites, streaming YouTube videos, recording music, making playlists, customizing cars and podcasting to the world. They have a need for creative expression. That need will either find an outlet in re-inventing and growing your business or not—it’s up to you.
  2. Question the Unquestionable. Think like an outsider. Challenge your taken-for-granted assumptions—about the way your industry works, about what your competitors are doing, about your customer’s expectations, and what your employees are truly capable of doing.
  3. Let limitations drive creativity. Limitations come in all shapes and sizes: Financial. Regulatory. Geographical. Political. Are they a blessing or curse? Asset or liability? It’s your choice. Constraints can call forth cleverness and be a springboard to creativity or they can paralyze you. Limitations can drive you toward simplicity and force you to do more with less in more ingenious ways or they can become a convenient excuse for doing nothing. Limitations can push you past the first, easiest answer to a more elegant, hard-for-your-competition-to-replicate solution.
  4. Look for breakthroughs beyond your industryWhere do new ideas come from? They don’t come from sitting in the same office, talking to the same people, looking at the same computer screens day after day. Spending the majority of your time with people who share your beliefs and assumptions doesn’t unleash your creativity. It sharpens your prejudices. It doesn’t promote discovery. It leads to closed-mindedness. Some of your most elegant solutions will come from places outside your industry. The question is: “Do you have the organizational humility to look outside and the initiative to go there?”
  5. Get comfortable being UNcomfortable. Game-changing. Disruptive. Breakthrough. All words used to descript epic innovation. But here’s the thing. To have “breakthrough” innovation you have to break stuff. You have to break old processes and approaches. You have to let go of yesterday’s wiz-bang innovation or maybe the business model you’re comfortable with. Breaking things is messy. And, innovation offers you no guarantees. That makes everyone uneasy. But there is rarely any growth unless you get outside your comfort zone.
  6. Trade BEST practices for NEXT practices. BEST practices suck. Because the best you are ever going to be following someone else’s best practice is a good #2. Growth comes from NEXT practices and next practices are the result of disrupting yourself. The caveat is this. Sometimes a version of a best practice in another industry can become a next practice in yours.
  7. Solve a problem that really matters. Awe-inspiring. Jaw-dropping. Spine-tingling. Are these the words your people use to describe their work? Your people are more capable of change than you (or they) might think. The question is: Do they have something worth changing for? Something that inspires them to stretch, grow and get out of bed in the morning? Do they see how what they do every day contributes to a noble, heroic cause?

Real innovators are constantly asking: “How do we run the business better? How do we grow the business faster and differentiate business more?” This involves process, product, service, brand, and business model innovation.

And guess what? That can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime. 

Kevin Freiberg is the co-author of the international bestseller NUTS! Southwest Airlines Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, and 6 other award-winning books. Over 2000 companies in 60 industries across the globe have invited Dr. Freiberg to help prepare them for the threats and opportunities presented by market shifts and trends others are missing.

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