Does Your Organization have a “Ready-for-Disruption” Mentality?

March 15th, 2017

March means…

  • Signs of spring? …not this year if you live in the northeast and are facing 30” of snow…
  • March Madness? Yes, in basketball, St. Patrick’s Day, “Spring Forward” and more…
  • SXSW? Again, yes. And could this be madness of another sort?

Arguably, given the messy nature of innovation (among other things), yes, SXSW could be some of that seasonal madness.  Yet, innovation isn’t a seasonal event.  It’s a lifetime process and attitude.

Mashable in a recent post noted the opportunities SXSW presents for the B2B world:

“At its core, SXSW is still an ideas conference.

“Businesses shouldn’t go to SX for the sheer number of opportunities. They should go because no other festival or conference on the planet creates a mindset like SX.

“It’s this ready-for-disruption mentality that makes SXSW one of the most productive conference for businesses. You can create 1,000 scenarios for people to mingle and meet at CES or Dreamforce, but you can’t fabricate a mindset.”

A “ready-for-disruption mentality”.  Does your organization have one?  What exactly is it?

But, before we go to organization mentality, consider the words of Sara Clemens, Chief Strategy Officer (and currently on sabbatical) with Pandora about sustaining innovation versus disruptive innovation.

At a 2016 CFO Summit, Ms. Clemens expressed it was important for companies to understand the difference between sustaining innovation and disruptive innovation:

“‘Disruptive innovation is where you completely transform the market in which you’re operating in, or create a new market,’ Clemens said.”

Disruptive innovation can be a significantly higher hurdle.  What does it imply about the determination of an organization to innovate at the level of disruption? 

I’d observe that not only can you not “fabricate a mindset”, but that the mindset for innovation, let alone disruption, is rooted in organizational culture.

Certainly, attending an event such as SXSW can feed a culture endowed with innovation genes, but again, innovation is not instilled by an event.

Feed the gene, yes.  More importantly, if innovation and/or disruption is what you want to get out of your organization, insure the “geneology”, the temperament and the culture required for it exists and gets nourishment – daily!

How to accomplish this is a topic for future posts, but start with this often expressed phrase, “Freedom to Fail”.  Perhaps it’s a phrase used too often, but it really requires introspection by leadership.  Consider this from Fortune Magazine:

“One great way to assess if an organization is likely to be innovative or disruptive is to ask employees if they agree with the statement “We are encouraged to be innovative even though some of our initiatives may not succeed.” Being able to take risks, being able to fail is fundamental to creating an environment where innovation can take place.”

This means employees genuinely have to feel safe in taking risks.  It calls for leaders who are more than courageous; it demands leaders model the willingness to take risk, and potentially fail.

Is your organization ready?