Cultivating a Disruptive Consciousness

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In the old days, business success was all about scale: getting a good idea and then efficiently executing it on as large a scale as possible. That’s the apotheosis of the manufacturing model: find the right widget, make it as cheaply as possible and then market the hell out of it to get people to buy, and work like crazy to create defenses against competitors via distribution, legislation and other practices.

That model worked really well to create success in a stable environment, when consumer tastes, competitors and technology all moved relatively slowly and predictably.

But today, disruption in all those things is coming so quickly that investing in one idea at scale risks falling out of step with the market. Instead, the key to success in disruptive times is real-time feedback that informs decision-making so you can adjust to meet new competitors, take advantage of new technology and respond to changes in consumer habits.

That tension, between efficiency and responsiveness, is brilliantly explained in this blog post in the First Round Review via Quibb, discussing the work of Adam Pisoni, co-founder of Yammer.

So the really interesting question is what social norms, technologies and practices can leaders and their organizations adopt to meet this new reality? What does it take to make yourself and your organization easily open to feedback, learning and surprises from the environment around you?

While technologies (such as Yammer and other crowd-empowering social media, big data, etc.) can do a lot to help, the bigger change comes in the practices, attitudes and beliefs inside the organization: instead of relying on defense of the current product, can you open to constant change and learning, even if it means giving up what you just created? This is where consciousness – the state of mind that each person in the organization brings to their job – is so important.

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