Disruption is not just about technology changing. Organizations, whole industries, and the world will continue to be caught off guard by disruption. New mindsets are required to embrace disruption as an opportunity rather than as a looming threat.
The problem with mindsets is that we are typically unaware of them until we are confronted with information that contradicts them. This contradiction results in cognitive dissonance in us. That’s how disruption works and why we are caught off-guard because we didn’t see something coming. The good news is that when contradictions become self-evident, new possibilities emerge. Possibilities we didn’t see before. However, exploiting new possibilities often requires the need to transform. Successful transformation begins with personal transformation. In order for this all to work, as change leaders, we need to get out of our comfort zone and disrupt ourselves first.
Three very smart men who disrupted the prevailing mindsets in their time were Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Alvin Toffler. They inspired new mindsets and ways of being that tell us how to disrupt ourselves.
According to Wired magazine, many have likened disruption to digital Darwinism an era in which technology and society evolve faster than organizations and people adapt. Inspired by Darwin is the following quote:
It is not the strongest species that survives, but the one that is best able to adapt to the changing environment.
Darwin’s theories about the natural world tell us that it is not about bigger, stronger or more intelligent, rather for organizations to survive, they need to be continuously adaptive to changing and emerging environments.
I invite you to think about how becoming more adaptive to what is coming around the corner, will increase your personal effectiveness as a change leader. Being adaptive turns disruption into an opportunity to be anticipated, explored and even exploited. Ask yourself, what do I personally need to do to become more open, responsive and adaptive to changing environments? What can I do to support my colleagues and my organization to do the same?
Albert Einstein was a physicist who among other things developed the theory of relativity. In 1921 he received the Nobel Prize in Physics. Responding to the birth of the nuclear age Einstein noted:
We have to learn to think in a new way. Applying methods from an earlier age is insufficient. We must have the courage and leadership to revolutionize our thinking and our actions.
Einstein is calling on us to think and act in different ways because things are “out-of-the-box” different. He is saying that our current paradigms of how to think and how to do things are no longer serving us well. Out-of-the-box thinking and action is the need de jour. Einstein is asking us to be revolutionary change leaders by thinking and venturing out into new territory in untried ways. Someone said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Think about where your personal revolutionary edges are in the way you understand and do things now. What will help you get out of your comfort zone so that you can start seeing and doing things differently? If we are going to ask others to step out of their comfort zone, we need to courageously step out of ours first. This is how we, as change leaders, can lead the way for others.
Be An Agile Learner
Alvin Toffler, a social scientist and futurist, is known for discussing the impact of the digital revolution on people and society. He is best known for his book Future Shock, published in 1970. Forty-seven years ago he inspired the following quote:
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Toffler is telling us that we need to be agile learners. Change leaders need to become more agile to continuous cycles of learning and the quick application of that new learning. This means a cycle of letting go of the old and applying the new. We need to do this for ourselves first so that we can support others in doing the same.
Think about ways that you can improve your own ability to learn, unlearn and relearn. In other words, practice being openly curious and learning agile so that you are not caught off guard by disruption. What is working today, won’t work tomorrow.
As change leaders, we support and lead others in moving towards and not away from disruption. The most important task for leaders in the face of disruption is mobilizing people in their organizations to be transformation-ready. That needs to start with disrupting ourselves.
Be adaptive, be revolutionary and be an agile learner.
If we become those three things, it looks like we will be in good company!
Contact me to learn more about how to get you, your team and your organization out of the twilight zone of the discomfort zone.