Innovation through Disruption: The Risk and Reward of Radical Change




I once worked for a CEO who had a standard policy of no bidding on all general Requests for Proposals (RFPs). This meant that he refused to take the time and resources to bid on projects that were being offered to a number of other companies. Instead of entering the general bidding pool, he would write a no-bid letter to the prospective client, informing them of his decision not to bid and why they were stupid to offer the project up in an open bid format.

This was a strategic ploy on my boss’s part. He was breaking the process. More than half of the time he would get a call from the prospect, inquiring about his decision to no-bid the project. These conversations often resulted in an ongoing dialogue (that the other vendors did not get), where our company ended up helping rewrite the proposal and getting the work.

By disrupting the standard process, our firm grew quickly and successfully.

In a recent article from Fast Company, Bruce Kasanoff and Michael Hinsaw talk about the “7 Ways to Disrupt Your Company.” The authors note that disruption is neither easy to create or confront, but the results can be real game changers for your business. Kasanoff and Hinsaw offer these tips to help raise the standards of customer experience and create new opportunities for growth:

  1. Totally eliminate your industry’s persistent customer pain points.
  2. Dramatically reduce complexity.
  3. Cut prices 90 percent (or more).
  4. Make stupid objects smart.
  5. Teach your company to talk.
  6. Be utterly transparent
  7. Make loyalty dramatically easier than disloyalty.

One thing that struck me about this list is that more than half of these things are directly related to personal behavior. It’s clear that cutting prices and making stupid objects smart may only be dealt with from leadership/business strategy levels.

But the rest of the items relate directly to human behavior and the ways in which we choose to carry ourselves as business professionals. That being said, it’s a very scary proposition to be “utterly transparent” or to try to “make loyalty dramatically easier than disloyalty.”

By modifying your behavior, you may be running right up against the current culture that exists within your own organization. When that happens, one of two things will occur:

You will alienate yourself from the group and might lose your job

Or

You will become a leader in a cultural revolution within your organization.

This is what disruption is. It is a radical shift from current norms, paradigms, and standard operating procedures. There is great risk creating and fostering this type of radical change — along with great reward.

Definitely a proposition not for the squeamish or weak of heart.