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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Disrupt Yourself IV 07-08



4. Let your strategy emerge.Disruptive innovation also rests on what has been described as emergent strategy. Rather than performing detailed market analysis and developing a step-by-step plan to achieve a goal, disrupters are flexible. They take a step forward, gather feedback, and adapt accordingly. As Professor Amar Bhide at Columbia University has shown , 70% of all successful new businesses end up with a strategy different from the one they initially pursued. A well-known example is Netflix, which started as a door-to-door DVD rental service but now focuses on digital streaming of movies.
A parallel exists in disruptive careers. Because we’re not following traditional paths, we can’t always see the end from the beginning. As John D. Rockefeller wrote, “If you want to succeed, you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel worn paths of accepted success.” Crampton, the science teacher, never expected to become a marketer or an online entrepreneur. When Liz Brown was furiously billing hours and winning cases in her quest to make partner at her law firm, she never imagined she’d soon become executive director of Golden Seeds, an investing network for women entrepreneurs, and teaching law at Bentley University.
Another great example comes from Sabina Nawaz. As a young computer engineer at Microsoft, she was moving deftly up the corporate ranks, taking on increasing responsibility, and probably positioning herself for a coveted VP role. But after getting some positive feedback about her management skills and emotional intelligence (perhaps a disruptive strength in the software industry), Nawaz decided to disrupt herself.
“I had been moving up in a traditional step-function way and I knew the formula for success, but I no longer wanted the next title or promotion,” she recalls. “I wanted to stretch my boundaries.” She asked to move into a human resources role, which she held for almost six years. Then, rather than continuing to climb at Microsoft, she left to start a leadership development consultancy. That had never been her career ambition, but Nawaz let her strategy emerge.
The Engine Is You
According to Christensen’s research on disruptive innovation, when a company pursues growth in a new market rather than an established one, the odds of success are six times higher and the revenue potential 20 times greater. It’s impossible to quantify the effects of personal career disruption in the same way, but anecdotal evidence suggests it can yield similar results—dramatically improving your chances of finding financial, social, and emotional success.
The status quo has a powerful undertow, no doubt. Current stakeholders in your life and career will probably encourage you to avoid disruption. For many of us, though, holding steady really means slipping—as we ignore the threat of competition from younger, more agile innovators, bypass opportunities for greater reward, and sacrifice personal growth.
We give a lot of airtime to building, buying, and investing in disruptive companies. They are vital engines of economic growth. But the most overlooked economic engine is you. If you really want to move the world forward, you need to innovate on the inside—and disrupt yourself.
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