Always a pleasure to be here in this forum with you Stephen and the COHO community. And thank you for calling the essay a meditation. It certainly felt like that for me when I was writing it, despite the subject matter.
My first thought is, ‘Is disruption chaos?’ Our intellect doesn’t function well in chaotic periods, so we’re required to defer to our intuition and imagination, but I notice that many people cope quite fine intellectually with disruption. It may be semantics, but just as an example, ‘chaos’ is necessary for alchemy, but is ‘disruption?’ I would argue ‘no,’ so I’m going to address your question via the word ‘disruption.’ And forgive me if I digress, but I’ll try to answer the essence of your questioning tangentially through the lens of the workforce, not specific industries.
I feel many people in the corporate world approach disruption in the ‘wrong’ way. Namely, you can’t plan for disruption. It exists in real time. Many companies struggle with this because most of the data they look to create with is coming from the past. But when working with disruption we must make ourselves a ‘verb’ in present time, not a ‘noun.’ And we disrupt not as a one-off event, but so that it becomes an intrinsic part of us. Those who have successfully brought disruption to the market by reimagining new possibilities have done so because within themselves, and those they work with, they spend the majority of their time with present data and being ‘verbs.’
But, if you were a manager thinking about your next hire – and be honest here – would you choose the most disruptive person for the job? You may like to think that you’d say ‘yes,’ but most people would say ‘no.’ You wouldn’t want them anywhere near you as they challenge everything about who you are, and what you believe in, and your comfort with the known world. And what do we like to call them – trouble makers, whistle blowers, people who rock the boat – until they become a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk and the like and then we call them geniuses, visionaries and pioneers.
Very few individuals have enough self-esteem, well, I’d actually say soul-esteem, to be around someone that disrupts them. And very few people want a disruptive person on their team. Are they going to show up for work today? Will they embarrass the team? Will they be communing with nature for inspiration rather than trawling online reports for something supposedly new and inspired like the other sheeple? (a portmanteau of sheep and people to describe herd behaviour) If they march to their own beat, how will we control them?
And if you were a CEO, would you hire the most disruptive person for the board who directly challenges the mediocrity of other board members that didn’t gain their position through meritocracy? Would you select the most disruptive candidate who highlights the current, uninspired vision and poor performance of the board? You’d say, ‘get real’ and choose safety, though the inner rebel in you wishes otherwise. This is the challenge, which confronts many CEOs, department heads and HR managers, while in the same breath (and often while they’re speaking at conferences) they’re espousing the need for an innovative, creative workforce!
To disrupt requires disruptive thinking, allowing disruptive feelings and taking disruptive actions on a daily basis. Many in the corporate world think that they can just ‘strategy away day’ this topic, or put someone else’s disruptive ideas into a PowerPoint presentation and try to implement them second-hand, or vicariously, by reading the latest bestseller out of Silicon Valley with ‘disruption’ in the title.
We must break the spell of thinking disruption is doing the same thing just better, faster, and cheaper. Disruption is a state of being, not a technology. And the best way to avoid actually changing is to go into our heads and endlessly argue about what ‘disruption’ even means. Our minds love to evaluate, oppose, critique, judge etc. but rarely do we hit the streets embodying the discussion of our feverish, small minds, so with that, I shall stop here.
I look forward to engaging the plethora of ways in which chaos meets and finds you this week – Kristina.