The Disrupted or the Disruptor: Pick One

What comes to mind when you hear the term “disrupt”? Does it suggest chaos, lack of direction or other unsettling events?

Or do you see it from the other side of the coin — when you’re the one causing the disruption and, as a result, leveraging the opportunity that results?

If your organization has an anticipatory mentality, disruption is often synonymous with opportunity — that is, if you’re able to accurately anticipate the future and plan to act on it accordingly instead of merely reacting.

Everyone knows what disruption means. It refers to a force or an action that changes normal progress or activity.

Where you go from there to further interpret disruption depends on your attitude and mind-set. If you view disruption as a negative — an interruption in the normal flow of things that isn’t particularly welcome — then you can hardly be expected to value it.

On the other hand, if you embrace an anticipatory mind-set, you also embrace the opportunity that a disturbance in the status quo can offer. In fact, it’s more than just a welcoming attitude — by being anticipatory, your organization itself may be the driving force behind the disruption.

Changes in the newspaper industry illustrate this. Newspapers that have focused on the traditional print product are struggling, with many closing their doors entirely. On the other hand, newspapers that anticipated digital disruption — Great Britain’s The Guardian is a prime example — have flourished.

Disruption used to be a good deal slower than it is now. It took decades for disruptions such as the railroad and the interstate highway system to fully alter the transportation status quo.

That’s not the case any more. Given the explosion of technology and the ever-faster rate of change, the frequency and magnitude of disruption is occurring at an ever-increasing rate of speed.

Consider the digital disruption that now occurs all the time. A new smartphone, an activity tracker, a calorie counter or another tech-based product is introduced, and millions of customers eagerly snatch it up and begin using it within hours.

The internet affords immediate buying opportunities for customers around the world. Social media is on fire with chatter and product reviews.

Every bit as significant, all those other products and forms of technology that preceded that new product are considered out of date — and in many cases, rendered utterly obsolete.

What if, by chance, this new product is a failure? Same story, only flipped on its head, as unhappy customers share their frustrations with millions of others worldwide.

But at the same time, it affords an opportunity for further disruption — in this case, perhaps from a competitor who identifies the product’s flaws and introduces a new, better-functioning version.

Future disruptions are a certainty. What’s also certain is that the speed and effect of those disruptions are merely going to continue to increase, impacting both our personal and professional lives in countless ways.

That raises the central question: Which side are you going to be on? Will you be the disruptor or the disrupted?

From my perspective, it’s always far better to be the disruptor. For one thing, the disruptor is the one introducing change, as opposed to others who have little choice but to try to react to that change. History offers countless examples of disrupted companies that struggled desperately — and often unsuccessfully — to react to change. Just ask Blockbuster or Kodak.

On the other hand, not only is a disruptor the force that’s directing change, it reinforces the value of keeping an anticipatory mind-set, one that’s always on the lookout for game-changing opportunities. And once an opportunity is identified, being the disruptor allows you to, in effect, call the shots, rather than merely twisting this way and that in an effort to handle a powerful form of disruption that you may never have even seen coming.

It boils down to a simple truth: If you’re thinking game-changing opportunity, you’re thinking disruption.

Want to know how to build an Anticipatory Organization? Check out the Anticipatory Organization model. It consists of a corporate training system and an individual learning experience. You can also order the book by the same name on Amazon.com right now.

#1 Bestselling Author, Global Futurist, Innovation Expert and Keynote Speaker. One of the World’s Leading Futurists on Global Trends and Innovation.

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