Last year there were a great number of conversations about disruption. How to disrupt, how to be a disruptor, what would the next disruption be. That question has been answered – loudly.
No one predicted this level of disruption. Unlike the crashes of 1929 and 2008, this disruption was not years in the making or buried in the fine print of annual reports or inflated stock valuations.
That’s the thing about true disruption – you can’t be fully prepared for it. You can be a disruptor (think Uber or Dollar Shave Club) or be the disrupted (Yellow Cab and Gillette). Neither saw those disruptions coming but looking back they likely could have predicted them, if they had invested the time and resources.
From time to time there are things that will truly come out of left field; so-called black swan events. They are difficult if not impossible to predict, and the impact is immediate and broad.
You are at the mercy of an unpredictable future. There are three things you can do now to be ready for the next disruption, as well as recover from this one:
- Disrupt yourself. Set the goal of creating a disruptive business to your business.
- Talk to clients. Have the hard conversations with them. What works, what doesn’t. What would they change?
- Plan to be agile. We can’t predict the future, but we can create an environment of agility. Learn to adapt, adjust, and improvise. Make it part of your culture.
Take these steps and you’ll learn more about your clients and your company. You’ll learn new skills for growth and innovation. You might even find a bluebird with a new product that disrupts your disruptors.
Here is the most critical component: the most effective way to accomplish these tasks is go outside your company and outsource to an expert. Get someone with the right skills and experience who can learn quickly, then give them unfettered access to your team – and your clients where possible.
Trying to do this with existing employees is like asking my dog what she wants for dinner. She thinks anything different is good, but is limited by her experiences. Outsiders will see past the assumptions that hinder employees; they will sidestep the pitfalls of culture and internal politics.
Chances are your plans won’t match the next disruption perfectly. But you will have greater knowledge of what you’re good at, and where you need to improve. Even better, you’ll have new skills in agility that will allow you to adapt quickly to the changing needs of your market.