Prepare Yourself to Be Disrupted by Opening Your Mind

I’ve started my own businesses, worked for tiny businesses, large businesses, and firms in the middle ground, and I’ve also held positions at organizations of all sizes in between. It’s possible that some people might claim that I have an intriguing history. When you go to the top management of any of these organizations and ask them to describe innovation or ask where it originates from, you will receive a wide variety of responses.

Many people refer to incremental innovation, which involves making minor adjustments and incorporating small amounts. Improving the quality of their products and making them more desirable. Although this is never a bad thing to do, and there is certainly nothing wrong with it, incremental innovation is neither going to rescue your company nor is it going to destroy your firm. Innovation that is incremental in nature is risk-free.

Let’s set that to the side for a second because I’d want to make the case that it’s not truly “innovation” at all, given that everyone already engages in new practices on a small scale. Everyone. Who in their right mind would say anything like, “We are not going to make any changes to our product in order to make it better”? No one. These are the chips on the table. There is no use in focusing on incremental innovation, given that everyone will constantly strive to enhance their product in order to make it better.

Some people refer back to Clayton Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Dilemma, which states that if you don’t disrupt your own industry, someone else will. If you want innovation to originate from within your organization, you must let it, aid it, and promote it. Otherwise, it will always come from the outside.

It will be fatal to your business because a rival, most likely coming from a different industry that you have never even considered, will appear on the scene and be able to serve your clients far more effectively and at a more affordable price than you can. Your clients will go elsewhere, and you won’t even be able to reply to them since it could be too late by the time they do so. You may and should disrupt yourself as a means of protecting yourself from this, ultimately substituting your existing line of work with something new that has the potential to take the place of your organization. How do you manage to shake up your routine? Where does all of this original thought originate?

There is bound to be a significant amount of pushback against the most innovative, disruptive practices. One of my former coworkers at Yahoo!, who is also the author of the fantastic book Exponential Organizations, refers to it as the “internal corporate immune system.” I worked with him there. Some businesses really take the position that innovation is a malady or a virus that threatens to spread across the organization. The corporation begins to become infected with innovation, and the immune system responds by saying, “No, we’re not going to do any of that.” We’ll stop doing that because it will make our existing business more difficult to manage.” Some businesses may appear to be less innovative due to the fact that they are either older, larger, or operate in specialized sectors in which innovation is less prevalent.

Age, size, vertical. It makes no difference at all. OPENING UP ONE’S MIND IS THE FIRST STEP IN INNOVATION.

The elimination of ageism is one of my personal goals. You constantly hear about ageism being practiced in different parts of the world, yet it appears to be the final form of discrimination that people don’t really care about. You won’t ever see people demonstrating in the streets against ageism, yet, you will see people rallying against racism and sexism. But ageism? Hardly. What distinguishes a younger individual from an older person is their level of experience. What is it exactly that elderly folk struggle with that causes people to have problems with them? If you ask me, the most important factor that determines whether or not people think someone is too old is whether or not they have an open mind. Why do some individuals believe that younger people and younger firms are more open to fresh ideas and innovations? Their mind is receptive to unexpected coincidences, fresh insights, and new information. In many people’s views, being older means being closed off – closed off to new connections, new data, serendipitous occurrences, and in many instances, risk. In point of fact, a person’s age has no bearing on whether or not they have an open mind; there are many younger individuals who do not have open minds, and many older people do have open minds. There is no correlation between your age and your capacity to maintain an open mind.

One of the reasons that younger, smaller businesses appear to be more inventive and nimble, agile, lean, and fast, as well as willing to disrupt themselves, is that these businesses are open to the disruptive innovation that is taking place in their industry. They do not consider pivoting a significant challenge; the more effectively and rapidly they pivot, the greater their prospects of surviving. They are receptive to the concept of doing something slightly or entirely new in order to provide superior service to their clients. In point of fact, the majority of them are founded on the concept of disruptive innovation. Consider the companies Uber and Airbnb. They have not only accepted disruptive innovation, but they are the very model of what it looks like to embrace disruptive innovation.

If you present a potentially disruptive idea to certain businesses, you could hear something along the lines of “That is much too disruptive for us; there is no way we could do that.” This individual does not have an open mind. There is no room for innovation in an environment.

Applying, say, the business model of Airbnb to a financial institution might look something like this: “I rent out my spare room to anyone, and they are verified by the crowd” (I rent out my spare cash to anyone, properly vetted by the crowd). It’s likely going to be too disruptive for a bank to implement, but if the bank doesn’t, someone else surely will. Utilize the same concept, but this time apply it to a major technological corporation. It’s possible that the response will be the same: for some reason. In general, the larger and more established a firm is, the more regulations and procedures are in place, the greater the number of jobs that depend on maintaining the status quo as it is, the lower the rate of innovation, and the more closed-minded the organization is. A corporation may have a closed mentality via its leaders and through the individuals who work there, just as an individual can. As I indicated before, the more layers of a firm there are in terms of laws, people, and processes, the more the arteries of the organization get stiff, and finally, you will have atherosclerosis. When the situation is severe enough, there is nothing that can be done to save the patient, and they will pass away. In point of fact, several of these businesses have already passed away, but their owners are unaware of this reality. There is a large number of businesses in the world that have pretty much come to the conclusion that they are not innovators. They do not maintain an open mind. They are going to take the conservative approach. Those are the ones that are destined to become extinct in the long run. It can’t be denied.

Should we strive to be pioneers, or should we not?

I’m saying:

  • It makes no difference how large the corporation is in any way at all.
  • It makes no sense in the context of the vertical where it is placed.
  • There is no connection between any of those things and this at all.

The attitude of the top management, the mindset of the employees, and the mindset of the firm as a whole is the most important factor. If you think in a creative way, then you will find novel solutions to problems. If you are open to new experiences and perspectives, then you will also be open to new forms of creativity. If you are willing to face the disruption and destruction of your own firm brought on by new things you produce, then you will innovate.

You don’t, and since you don’t, you won’t. That sums up the situation nicely.

Others may approach you with what seems to be a magical incantation or formula, such as the five stages of the invention for this or that. You don’t need ten steps, you don’t need seven points, and you don’t need five stages to do this. You do not require any of those items in any way.

You need to have an open mind and cultivate an atmosphere that allows for and encourages innovation in your organization. Your staff should be encouraged to think creatively and should be provided with a secure environment in which they may develop, discuss, speak, and come up with new ideas.

After that, construct them.