You Can’t Sue Your Way to Creativity

You know things are bad when a corporation sues for defamation.

You know things are bad when a corporation sues for defamation.

Once again, a legacy business player finds itself outmaneuvered by a disruptive startup. And once again, the disrupted incumbent is heading toward the courts for protection.

It’s further proof, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, that legalism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Or in this case, the last refuge of a company caught sleeping for too long.

Fighting for Relevance

The incumbent racing for court-induced relief this time is ADP, the payroll behemoth that’s dominated the employee payroll business for generations and controls nearly 20 percent of the market. The life-threatening disruptor on the other end of the legalism? Zenefits, a two-year-old startup that is taking the market by storm (and racking up huge VC money at a current valuation of $4.5 billion).

The fight started this spring, when some Zenefits clients who also use ADP noticed ADP was blocking their Benefits plugin services. (Zenefits does not do payroll processing, but instead focuses on all the other aspects of employee benefits, providing a free cloud service for managing insurance, investments, etc. and making its money from brokering insurance sales to its clients.)

Things escalated, with Zenefits accusing ADP of trying to block its growth while it scrambles to launch a competing product, and culminated with ADP suing the upstart for defamation in federal court.

A Chance to Wake Up and Innovate

The good news for ADP shareholders is that the company has finally awakened to an existential threat. Cloud-based apps are upending high-value businesses like ADP that are based on complex proprietary systems. By coming out swinging like a barroom brawler, ADP shows it at least knows this is a serious problem. No incumbent can afford to rest on its laurels even if it dominates its market.

And here’s where Zenefits could be an unwitting ally to ADP: Zenefits is doing the market research, product development and testing for ADP, showing them how they can move to the cloud, what works, what new market segments are out there that ADP’s traditional products haven’t attracted.

The question for ADP: are they willing to listen, or is a creative response drowned out by the noise of fear that what has worked in the past might not work as well in the future?

Even more interesting: as ADP moves its business inevitably to the cloud, how will it have to change itself to operate in the new era? One tip: give up running to the courts to protect the past and instead run toward disruption to create the future.

Capital vs. Consciousness: Reducing the Costs of Staying Current

Engine or anchor: holding onto legacy technology to maximize investment can cost you the future.

Engine or anchor: holding onto legacy technology to maximize investment can cost you the future.

Let’s say you’re a leader who’s deeply committed to keeping up with the times. You’re far-sighted and know that seemingly inconsequential players at the edge of your market could be the seeds of disruption that some day will threaten your existence.

So you invest in equipping your facilities and people with cutting-edge tools — whether that’s robotic assembly lines or Blackberries. And everything’s going fine, until one day, far sooner than you imagined, there’s a new technology out there — those awesome Blackberries you bought by the hundreds in January 2007 look weak in July when the iPhone comes out; that awesome new CNC milling machine now looks ancient compared to a 3-D printer.

You know you have to upgrade, but the technology you just bought isn’t even fully depreciated. Or, worse, the old equipment has been written off, but it still works and you’re making a ton of money from it; buying new stuff will crush those cushy profit margins you’ve grown used to.

Willy C Shih calls this the “death grip of legacy technology.” In his latest Harvard Business Review article, Shih outlines the many reasons leaders are held hostage by their technology.

The basic problem: it’s expensive to upgrade technology. For the accountants – and, more importantly, the shareholders – there’s a fine line between investing in technology and wasting money. (Just look at the pounding Amazon regularly takes from the investment community for its continuous spending on the cutting edge.) Oh, and what if you get it wrong and invest in dead-end technology?

Islands of the Future

One of the problems here is that leaders get blinded by the scope of investment — modern organizations are all about scale, and bringing in new equipment on a large scale is a big and expensive bet.

So instead of considering physical plant investment in terms of waves washing through the entire enterprise, what about looking at islands of the future?

Pick units within larger pieces of the organization and use them as test pilots. This approach costs less and allows tinkering without endangering the whole enterprise.

Starting small also allows these islands of the future to go farther with their experimentation — the risk of failure is lower, so they can afford to take more risks and find the limits of and new applications for the technology.

The important thing, though, is to make sure these islands of the future are not marginalized. They must be built as useful parts of the main show. This insures everyone is committed to their success, and also makes for easier knowledge transfer from the test pilots to the main production floor.

Noodling on something interesting at the edges of the enterprise will never be more than a sideshow; forking a critical function to create an innovative alternative makes a compelling example for change.

Upgrade the Humans and the Technology

As expensive and important as technology is to business success, it’s really only game stakes in a disruptive economy.

In his HBR article, Shih talks about technological changes that are either “competency-enhancing or competency-destroying.” Shih writes:

“The latter are troublesome because the knowledge base and skills required to operate in the new realm are so fundamentally different. From the perspective of how the resources in an organization are deployed and how its processes are organized, this makes sense. The more fundamental the break from the previous technology, the greater the switching costs.”

But there’s more than just the cost of training workers to use the new technology. The fundamental issue is changing their consciousness to match the new technology, and the new reality. Putting in cutting-edge equipment and training people to use it won’t modernize the organization if the people don’t upgrade how they see themselves in the new environment.

Even after Microsoft invested billions in mobile, the company and its people still saw themselves in the PC-bound software business.

I once worked with a senior executive who just had to be one of the first to get an iPad. Our accountants were stingy, and so getting the company to issue her one was quite a feat of bureaucratic maneuvering.

Her real problem, though, was figuring out what it was for. Soon after she received the iPad, I found her at her desk poring over a thick notebook — she had ordered her assistant to find an instruction book for the thing and print it out for her; the idea of the iPad as a search and reading device had never occurred to her. Clearly this was someone who no amount of cutting-edge technology was going to transform.

What Defines You?

It’s in this realm, the place where humans meet technology, that questions of self-image, emotion and consciousness matter most. Questions like:

  • Do your people feel threatened or empowered by the new technology?
  • Do your production workers define themselves by the machines they operate or the things they produce? (an especially big question if you work with unions, which largely define themselves by tools instead of products)
  • Does your company define itself by its products or by the way it affects its customers (do you make typewriters, or do you give people tools for expression?)
  • Do front-line workers feel safe telling their bosses the truth (such as, the new tools don’t work as expected)
  • Are the leaders willing to question their decisions (maybe these new tools aren’t as good as I thought)

So in addition to test piloting new technology, islands of the future are places where people can redefine themselves and their relationship with their tools and their products. This is the real work of staying ahead of the wave of change.

Tools for Transformation

For a great collection of tools to create a learning mindset for keeping up with change, check out the Conscious Leadership Group, one of the premier organizations addressing consciousness in the workplace (I’m a founding member).

Photo: Flickr

Pain Points = Disruptive Opportunity

To some it looks old and unfashionable, to others it looks like a goldmine.

To some it looks old and unfashionable, to others it looks like a goldmine.

Zenefits is an upstart player in the entrenched and highly complex employee benefits business. It’s a business that has been around for centuries and is dominated by gigantic insurance companies and financial firms, bedeviled by massive government regulation at all levels, and ruled by HR bureaucracy and tradition. With all of that, the employee benefits market sounds like the last place a startup would want to put its attention.

And yet, as this excellent profile of Zenefits points out, it was exactly that hidebound bureaucracy that made the opportunity for Zenefits to exploit.

Illustrating the excellent advice of Box CEO Aaron Levie, Zenefits found a hidebound corner of modern existence and upended it by reinventing the entire process. It’s been a stunningly successful strategy precisely because, while there was plenty of tradition and traction to keep the legacy players in place, it was a system that the customers were more resigned to than attached to. Once a better alternative came along, the old ways began quickly crumbling.

Adding to that pent up yet unrealized demand was the disruption presented by Obamacare, which created all sorts of new paperwork requirements (and headaches) for benefits managers. Zenefits realized that the confusion and additional pain of that disruption created an opening for a new player to gain ground – with so much change happening anyway, the pain of moving to a new benefits system was suddenly relatively less important than the promise of smoother sailing in the future.

A classic example of taking advantage of disruption to create more disruption in an industry ripe for it.

Photo: Wikipedia

Smash the Myth of Busyness


We’ve probably all seen it happen: that moment when someone moves from busy to overwhelmed, from getting a lot done to having too much to do.

Among my clients, being too busy — having so much to do that it can’t all be done and the to-do list starts eating away at personal time — is a continuing concern. It’s a concern because busyness kills productivity, undermines leadership, and ruins personal time.

This social pressure for busyness is based on the false assumption that working harder leads to more success. My experience is just the opposite.

The Pressure to Be Busy

This recent study by Boston University researcher Erin Reid shows just how bad things are. Reid looked at male employees in an unnamed consulting firm and found not only crushing workloads, but also that men who made public their desire to scale back work to more reasonable levels were seen as slackers and their careers suffered. So the pressure to keep working 60-80 hours a week and be “always on” was intense.

(Interestingly, Reid found that women were more likely to publicly say they are dialing back and were able to take advantage of different work arrangements to do that, though their careers suffered, too.)

Work Less and Accomplish More?

The fascinating part of the study, though, was a senior manager Reid called Lloyd: he worked reasonable hours, took plenty of time to be with his family, and structured work around his personal time. Importantly (and sadly), Lloyd also kept to himself just how much less he was working, even though he was accomplishing all his goals. As a result, Lloyd was widely seen within the company as a rising star and had recently been promoted to partner.

Even more fascinating was that Lloyd was part of a work team where everyone worked reasonable hours. And like Lloyd, this entire team was one of the most successful groups in the company. As one team member put it:

“We kind of have a shared agreement as to what work–life balance is on our team. We basically work really closely with each other to make sure that we can all do that. A lot of us have young kids, and we’ve designed it so we can do that. We’ve really designed the whole business [unit] around having intellectual freedom, making a lot of money, [and] having work–life balance. It’s pretty rare. And we don’t get pushback from above because we are squaring that circle—from the managing partners— ’cause we are one of the most successful parts of the company. Most of the partners have no idea our hours are that light.”

Put Yourself First, In a Good Way

There are plenty of reasons why people who live more balanced lives are more successful:

  • Quality trumps quantity — well-rested and happy people come up with better, more valuable ideas.
  • Happy and well-balanced workers make better team-mates, forging deeper bonds and interacting more with colleagues to coordinate work and trade vital information.
  • A reasonable schedule allows people to devote attention to what is most important instead of what is most pressing.
  • Un-stressed workers make fewer mistakes and connect better with clients and colleagues.

Many of these obvious but overlooked truths have been bolstered repeatedly by research, adding up to the fact that taking care of yourself, especially if you are a leader, is good business for everyone in the company.

But Change Comes Slowly

What’s most worrying is that the pattern of unremitting busyness, and its related assumption that good team members give their all to the company, is at least as rampant in the startup world as it is in the legacy business world.

So while many startups are revolutionizing the world with their products, they are relying on the same old organizational patterns and habits that have ruled western business since the industrial revolution.

This is a huge mismatch that not only leads to burnout among startup pioneers, but undermines their companies as they reach the limits of outmoded organizational models and leadership styles. You can’t play in a disruptive economy without aligning every part of your practices with the disruptive paradigm — it’s like putting a jet engine in a Wright Flyer; the mismatch will destroy you.

It’s Your Choice

So, given the huge pressure to be busy in contemporary business, it takes guts to step off the treadmill and make time for a high-quality of life at work.

Not only do we get a lot of attaboys from being the busiest person in the office, busyness also allows us to avoid all sorts of other issues we’d rather not face. (I wrote about my struggle with this for the Huffington Post recently.)

But someone’s got to call time out. Will you be the first to tip the balance?


Cultivating a Disruptive Consciousness


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.

Make Candor a Core Team Value

Candor builds teams; anything less destroys them.

Candor builds teams; anything less destroys them.

Many of the teams I deal with are burdened by what my friend and colleague Kaley Klemp calls  toxic sludge — the years of resentments, slights, enmities and stories that have built up between colleagues and color their perceptions of each other.

These teams are almost always successful and function well. If you saw them you’d say they work well together — they are considerate, professional and join together in action. But they also are operating at a fraction of their real capacity. Their members feel their energy drain when they get together, and the idea of being a team is not as exciting as it once was.

Some may say this is an inevitable part of any long-term relationship – whether a business partnership or a marriage, our cultural story is that passion cools, familiarity breeds contempt and the bloom inevitably falls off the rose.

In my experience, toxic sludge has two simple root causes: a lack of candor and a lack of responsibility.

The Real Value of Candor

By candor, I mean telling the whole truth. Most professionals don’t outright lie. But we often limit the amount of truth we tell.

For years I lived by the maxim that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. It was a way to get things done quickly in a hidebound bureaucracy. The consequence was that I often was in trouble with the boss and my colleagues, spent a lot of energy cleaning up after myself, and didn’t create much lasting change in the organization — as soon as the rule-breaker left, the rules remained unscathed.

Candor means telling the full truth impeccably, regardless of the consequences. Master truth-tellers not only reveal all the facts; they also reveal their feelings, thoughts and hunches. And it’s pretty binary: in any moment you are either being transparent, honest, and complete or you are backing off candor in some way by shading, withholding, or staying silent.

What keeps us quiet most of the time is fear. Healthy teams and workplaces create a climate where people at every level are rewarded for telling the truth about anything, no matter how unpopular the message may be.

The great thing about candor is that it’s simple to practice: start with the small things and work your way up. Before long, it’s as easy to tell the truth about what you really think of lunch as it is to tell your colleagues about your fears for your new project.

Take Real Responsibility

If candor prevents toxic sludge build-up, then responsibility is the antidote to whatever sludge there is.

You can only be responsible for what is under your control. One thing that is absolutely not under your control is the way others will feel about what you say or do. And yet much of the time, we limit what we say and do because we are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or angering them with our idea or scaring them about the future.

Trying to manage someone else’s reactions to our ideas and actions is a futile endeavor and the primary ingredient in toxic sludge.

Instead, take responsibility for what you want to say and do by being clear, direct and consistent. This means taking the initiative to directly inform the people whose reactions you most fear. It also means explaining your ideas and actions in ways that people can understand and relate to: being abrupt or confusing will only increase the chances that others react badly. So it’s up to you to sell it.

And responsibility is retroactive: you can use it to clear up any past lapses in candor by owning up, even years after the fact.

Build Your Energy

The really great thing about candor and responsibility is that they not only eliminate the source of most misunderstandings but they also increase energy in individuals and organizations.

When I take responsibility for telling a particularly troublesome truth — one that I have been worrying about revealing for fear of a bad reaction — I feel an immediate burst of energy and creativity. Multiply this across a team and you can transform the way your entire workplace operates.

If you want to learn more about core practices that build highly effective teams, check out the Conscious Leadership Group and their 15 Commitments for Conscious Leadership.


Conscious Leadership Makes the Difference for Startups, Too

Startup success these days depends at least as much on heart as head.

Startup success these days depends at least as much on heart as head.

Working in the startup world can be confusing, tiring and disheartening — all too often it’s you and your tiny team vs. the world of entrenched incumbents and uncaring customers. And while it’s tempting to buckle down and work harder to push your way through the obstacles, there is another way.

That other way is looking inside, to the conscious leadership values of trust, connection and mindful attention to pull greater results from your self, your team and your customers. And if that’s not enough, you can do all of this while expending less energy and building better feelings. Here are three heart-based moves to surviving — and thriving — in the disruptive world of 21st century business:


Fragile organizations are based on fear: fear of failure, fear of people not following orders, fear of displeasing the boss, etc. The result is a system of control — rules, hierarchies, procedures that give us a feeling of power and therefore (we believe) power over the outcome: “if everyone follows the rules, we will succeed.”

But not only is this attempt to control fear by controlling people costly (decision-making slows, bureaucracy increases, creativity and adaptability decline), it’s also an illusion: really, we have no control (just ask the folks at Borders how all their hierarchy and rules worked out).

The antidote to fear is trust: trust that if you have the right people, give them the proper resources and enlist them in attaining your shared goals, they will do their level best to deliver. Trust increases innovation by freeing people to think about the best way to do things, rather than worrying about what the boss will think. Trust is an essential quality in small start-up teams where speed and initiation are critical to survival.

Southwest Airlines trusts its flight attendants to meet the basic goals and requirements of the pre-flight safety briefing. The result is entertaining, memorable and even more effective safety messages than competitors’ canned scripts. (Few fliers will forget a rubber chicken hanging from the oxygen mask panel.)

Authentic connection

Authentic teams share their hopes and fears, are open about their disagreements and doubts, and fully reveal their feelings. This way of relating – so different from the fixed smile of “professionalism” – builds resilience, engagement and commitment. These teams function more efficiently because they don’t waste their effort on drama, gossip or politics.

Empower Public Relations in Chicago has been the testing ground for what its CEO calls “the no-gossip zone.” Instead of bureaucratic rivalries, petty politics and personal prejudice, the team here practices the art of candor. The result is fully informed discussion where everything is on the table; there are few surprises; employee engagement is high.

Leading from behind

Smart leaders take their cues from the people closest to the action — the front line folks who are actually making the widgets, calling on the customers, serving the food. These are the early warning systems in any organization: the saleswoman who hears about the upstart competitor from a customer; the developer who sees exactly where the process can be improved; the waiter who tries out new ways to delight diners and sees the results reflected in his tips.

It can be hard for a founder, fueled by original insight and ideas, to let go of his or her conviction enough to allow others modify, elaborate or even criticize that founding vision. But finding the balance between zeal and openness is essential to fitting a business to the emerging reality of the marketplace.

At Zingerman’s deli in Ann Arbor, Mich., the leaders supplied the initial vision and ever since it’s been the employees who have turned it into a reality that today comprises a community of mutually supporting businesses — from a bakery to a corporate training service — run by workers who came up through the ranks (and came up with the ideas). It’s one of the most successful delis on earth.

These three moves — which are all about heart, not head — will make you and your organization rapidly flexible, resilient and innovative, exactly the moves needed to surf the internet wave instead of being swept away by it.

If you want to dive even deeper into these waters, join us for a two-hour workshop Jan. 28th at DUMBO Startup Lab in Brooklyn, NYC. More information and signup here. And if you want an even deeper dive, check out the work of my colleagues at the Conscious Leadership Group.

How to have disruption without all the bloodshed, or, what Uber teaches us about appreciation

Be thankful, not just for the things you love, but especially for the things you don't want to hear – but people are telling you anyway. It's critical insight into a blind spot.

Be thankful, not just for the things you love, but especially for the things you don’t want to hear – but people are telling you anyway. It’s critical insight into a blind spot.

This originally appeared as a posting for the Conscious Leadership Group, an organization committed to showing business leaders how to get the results they want by waking up to consciousness in their work.

Thanksgiving is a holiday built on a commitment to appreciation. Perhaps we need a special day for this because we appreciate so little. One of the defining features of the unconscious leadership I’ve seen (and embodied myself) is an us-against-them attitude that blinds leaders to the good things their critics do for them.

The latest company to fall prey to this is Uber, the revolutionary ride hailing service that seems to be at war with the world these days. I like Uber for how it has made moving around easier and faster for me, and I wonder how appreciation and other conscious commitments could transform it from pariah to paragon.

For instance, conscious leaders value appreciation over entitlement: Uber’s latest gaffe was when one of its executives suggested the company might dig into the private lives of journalists who wrote unflattering stories about Uber. That sure seems like a feeling of entitlement to good press coverage — contrasted to the appreciation that most early-stage companies feel about any press mentions. Success changes everything.

Is it possible that Uber executives could appreciate critical journalists for alerting them to parts of their business that are not playing well with consumers? Conscious leaders welcome all feedback, even if it is delivered as criticism or sniping. How different would the Uber story be today had the company welcomed its critics, asked for more feedback and moved to address their concerns?

And what about integrity — that is, acting in a way that is aligned with your beliefs and statements across all areas of the business. Uber says it’s working to “bring people and their cities closer,” and its service certainly does that logistically. But by cutting wages for drivers or booking then canceling thousands of rides on a competitor’s service, Uber does just the opposite.

Uber staffers working in the commitment of integrity – acting only in alignment with the company’s stated principles – would have seen that while these might have been clever and sharp-elbowed competitive business moves, they were not aligned with what Uber says it is all about.

Then there is the commitment of creating a win for all instead of winning at the expense of others. So far Uber’s beat-the-other-guy approach has garnered the company lawsuits, strangling regulation, and public protest. What would it look like if Uber replaced a belief in adversarial business development with a commitment to transforming urban transportation in a way that benefited all players — consumers, drivers and even competitors?

Ironically, Uber’s reviled “surge pricing” scheme does that — once people learned what it really was: raising prices in times of high demand (New Year’s eve, for instance) incentivizes more drivers to work for the higher wage and reduces customers’ wait times. Drivers earn more; customers get their rides; and even traditional taxis still have plenty of work — everybody wins.

Contrast Uber’s experience with that of another revolutionary enterprise: Airbnb. As the recent gathering for its hosts shows, this is a company that puts connection at the heart of its work. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that one of Airbnb’s key executives is Chip Conley, a deeply committed conscious leader.

Market disruptions are revolutionary – and essential for evolution – but they don’t have to be drama-ridden or cut-throat. When leaders are more committed to learning, appreciation and consciousness than to being right, their successes are shared with— not at the expense of —their employees, competitors and consumers. Now that’s a revolution we can all get behind.

Photo: TheKohser

The end of the Moon Shot – Even for Moon Shots

disruptive innovation in space travel puts SpaceX ahead of NASA

Even moon shots aren’t what they used to be. Cheaper, faster, lighter wins the day today.

Back in the good old days – the 60s and 70s and 80s – the gold standard for any endeavor was NASA’s Apollo moon program. And why not? After all, less than 10 years after President John Kennedy challenged the nation to send a man to the moon, NASA did it. That sort of drive and technical prowess cemented America’s place as Most Awesomest Nation Ever.

And that sort of engineering siege mentality – armed with slide rules, mainframe computers and heaps of money instead of trebuchets and battering rams – became the way anyone bent on success did things. Assemble a huge team of all-stars to create the perfect plan, break the task into thousands of minute steps, plug all those steps and people into a gigantic workflow chart, grind away at it until you reach the end of your flow chart, and voila: the final product emerges, just as envisioned at the start. It was the apotheosis of the assembly-line manufacturing model.

And then something happened. Suddenly, reality stopped cooperating. The world sped up so much that it became difficult to predict conditions in the future, and nearly impossible to foresee all the factors that would affect any endeavor. Just ask Blackberry what happened to its many tries at the latest, greatest smart phone. Or ask NASA itself. Not only was the agency forced to do more with less as budgets declined, but even doing more with more didn’t always turn out so well: witness the 1999 Mars orbiter crash caused by confusion between metric vs. English distance units. Whoops – there goes $125 million of custom-made parts, bespoke software and specialized mission control.

Contrast that with India’s successful mission to Mars earlier this year – at $74 million it was the cheapest interplanetary mission ever. And it worked just fine, thank you very much.

Today, getting a fast start, leveraging existing resources (whether knowledge, software libraries or off-the-shelf parts), failing fast and iterating based on experience is the way to play the game.

And the best illustration of this is once again America’s space program: SpaceX, Elon Musk’s ambitious space launch startup, has just won a NASA contract to send humans to the International Space Station for $2.6 billion – almost half the cost of the identical contract awarded to the legacy moon shot team headed by Boeing.

What’s the difference? SpaceX looks at its program the same way software engineers or internet entrepreneurs look at their work: as innovation projects based on rapid prototyping and iteration; Boeing is still in the moon shot business, working relentlessly to develop the perfect plan and then execute flawlessly to get it right the first time. Here’s how Quartz describes the essential difference:

“SpaceX always thought of itself as a tech firm, and its clashes with NASA often took a form computer developers—or anyone familiar with the troubled roll-out of—would recognize as generational. SpaceX followed an iterative design process, continually improving prototypes in response to testing. Traditional product management calls for a robust plan executed to completion, a recipe for cost overruns.

“’We weren’t just going to sit there and analyze something for years and years and years and years to the nth degree,’ said David Giger, a SpaceX engineer. ‘SpaceX was built on ‘test, test, test, test, test.’ We test as we fly. We always say that every day here, ‘Test as you fly.’”

Test as you fly: that’s the new model for success in a disruptive economy where everything – from suppliers to consumer tastes – changes too quickly to accurately predict at the outset. Learning as you go, rather than knowing everything before you start, is a much more effective strategy for a fast-moving economy.


To Avoid Disruption, Look to the Heart

Look toward the heart, not the head when finding ways to avoid disruptive change.

Surfing the wave of change requires heart, not head.

Disruption can be scary. And fear leads people to do foolish things, like clamp down when they should lighten up, or focus on execution when they should foster creativity, or work harder when they should work smarter.

Instead of contracting in fear in the face of disruption (and let’s face it, who isn’t afraid of being disrupted these days), try these three heart-centered moves to get ahead of the wave of change: trust, authentic connection, and leading from behind.

Check them out on my latest blog post at The Feast.

Photo courtesy of