bring about innovation with disruption," a friend of mine likes to say.
Luckily, I’ve also gleamed some valuable insights on exactly how to go about
changing what I myself like to call dysfunctional organisations from her, or
how to disrupt them enough to bring about real innovation.
But first a
bit of background for why I’m blogging this post now: Some time ago I was
invited to manage the Twitter-account of Corporate Rebels in week 12 this year,
in other words the week now coming to an end. Corporate who? You can read more
about the concept here, or the short
organizations no longer serve our needs. They cannot keep pace with a
high-velocity, hyper-connected world. They no longer can do what we need them
to do. Change is required."
agree more, but how do you bring about the needed change?
As someone who’s spent most of her
professional life working for legacy media, I know that change doesn’t come
easy – a fact I’ve blogged about at numerous times, most recently (and with a
positive slant) in this post on how
to transition from legacy media culture to the digital world.
Now it must
be said I had no idea how insanely short on time and focus outside of work I’d
be this week (and how much in need of the vacation I started yesterday) when I
accepted the challenge to manage @CorporateRebels in week 12. But, now that my much needed vacation has finally
arrived, it offers me the opportunity (and much needed impetus) to sit down and
write that post I’ve long been contemplating on disruption management.
As so many
good things in life, it started with a great conversation: This particular
conversation took place in London in 2010, while visiting my friend Adriana
Lukas (who, as it happens, was the woman who set up this very blog for me and
told me to get blogging back in 2005). Adriana is, in Jackie Danicki’s words, "a professional disruptor" and the topic for our conversation that evening, was
Adriana’s recent thoughts on what she coined ”disruption management”.
Adriana’s words (via this blog post by Jackie): "Disruption is not about
destruction. It’s about putting things off-balance in order to change them, so
you can sneak something new and better in between the cracks."
(again, in Adriana’s words, as she explains this much better herself than I do):
The challenge for anyone looking to change the old ways is to:
- avoid existing and mostly dysfunctional
- connect to the outside where the shifts are
- bring the change inside and apply it to their
sphere of influence
- find people to set up a loose and
cross-functional network of allies who end up building alternative ways
The first three apply to those who have had their OFM. The forth is the hardest and involves co-operation, conversations,
reaching out and most of all willingness to face the stigma of a disruptor.
There rarely is innovation without disruption…
This, in short, is the recipe for disruption
management if I’ve understood Adriana correctly. She also has this very useful
(and funny) post on what kind of
persons within any organisation who might be persuaded to become your allies
in bringing about change.
having that late night conversation with Adriana about disruption management
back in January 2010, it felt like I had found an important, missing link that
tied so much of what I had been thinking about the previous few years together.
always felt that companies, and especially media companies, are very much like
more or less dysfunctional families (please note, I say this with almost as
much love as I have for my own weird and wonderful family), and I’ve sometimes
observed how dysfunctional managers create co-dependent employees. In general, I’d long been contemplating how there's so
much that is true about individual psychology that's also true about companies:
"As above, so below" - macro
cosmos mirrors micro cosmos.
journalism has at times felt like one of the most dysfunctional industries
ever, dysfunction being the norm and not the exception - something that's even
eulogised at times. As a journalist, hearing eulogies like this about other
media folks is not uncommon: "He
was a right old crook and bastard, mercurial and just plain impossible at times,
a heavy drinker whose wife long since left him: But he was a hell of a journalist
to the end of his times". Crook, bastard and heavy drinker often being
honorary words when used by journalists and editors about journalists and
This is a
type of mythology I’ve always detested, and why I’ve repeatedly talked about how
journalism needs new heroes, new myths: And as I’m passionate about the
opportunities online media holds for transforming and expanding journalism, I’ve
often talked about the way new online tools and services can help bring about
more open, more transparent, more social, more informed, more service-oriented
journalism - and sought to point to "heroes" and positive "myths" from that
to point out how tools such as Twitter of Google Maps have created new
opportunities for lazy journalism and celebrity stalking, but there’s also tons
of examples on how such tools have created a more transparent, more informed
journalism that wasn’t quite possible in the same way before.
So when you
bring the change new tools represents into media organisations, it changes
journalism as well. Also, if you can identify, educated and network the people
who have the passion, and the skills or willingness to learn them, for bringing about change, that can also help
bring about new solutions, new alliances – and affect change. Which all, might
help bring about small, loosely organised, doses of disruption management,
though perhaps not enough? Perhaps, the change is only incremental as the old
school still is in charge? (Kevin has
some reflections related to this here)
Again, I do
know how hard it can be, or seem, to bring about substantial change in the
industry I’m most familiar with as we’re always chasing deadlines, always fighting
the daily chaos (which I written about here, here, here and here – to mention a few
posts). So these
tips come in handy:
A few tips for those who find themselves in a situation where the
organisation is their worst enemy:
- Don’t try to change the system from within –
i.e. trying to bring a change by going through established and outdated
- Find people inside the organisation who
understand both how important and good such change is and the original
reason behind processes that are stopping it.
- Increase their knowledge and understanding of
what you are trying to bring about, share tools, passion, ideas,
- Gradually connect these people in a network
that will amplify their ability to make things happen ‘under the radar’,
i.e. bypassing the dysfunctional processes and in effect creating
alternative ways of doing things.
- Make sure the ‘alternative ways’ are not
grabbed by the system’s people and turned into their version of inflexible
and ossified processes.
- Rinse, lather and repeat – 2 or 3 times helps
but once already feels good.
- Wave good bye to ‘business cases’ and say
hello to ‘case studies’ i.e. ‘this is how we have done it and all we want
is to enable everyone else to do something similar if they wish’.
This, to my
mind, is brilliant advice, and applies not only to companies but to all kinds
of organisations. This, I think, is also why all kinds of networks of change
makers, change hungry or change curious people, such as Norwegian Online News
Association and Girl Geek Dinners, can be so powerful when it comes to connecting
the right people with each other and with powerful ideas…