10 Ways to Disrupt Successfully

In a box

Embrace the power of disruption or tomorrow will be today, again. More of the same produces more of the same.

All leaders disrupt.

Successful disruption:

Disruption makes new futures possible. But, disruption “gone wild” destroys your capacity to build the future. Too much disruption irritates and aggravates. People make fun of the “innovation of the day,” for example.

Disruption is destruction.
Create new futures with small disruptions.

  1. Ask new questions. Try these: Where can our current people take us? How can we help them get there?
  2. Participate in activities you don’t like. Discomfort disrupts.
  3. Engage inexperienced people. New eyes enlighten.
  4. Create new constraints. Boundaries make creativity possible. 
  5. Get people doing rather than talking. Have the corporate team call customers, for example.
  6. Invite people from different departments to meetings.
  7. Rearrange conference rooms. But, don’t change configurations every time. You know you’re in trouble when rearranging chairs creates distress.
  8. Make, “Could we try something different?” a regular occurrence.
  9. Shadow people who do jobs you don’t understand.
  10. Do something at a different time of day.

Successful disruption:

  1. Stability is essential. All disruption, all the time, paralyzes.
  2. Disrupt leadership before disrupting entire organizations. Make them feel it first.
  3. Have everyone’s back. Make it safe to try new things. The moment you punish someone for trying something new is the moment trying new things stop.
  4. Evaluate after not during. Let things play out. Learn as you go.
  5. Give “new” time to grow legs. Work it a few times even if it isn’t perfect. Disruption creates and requires imperfection.

Leaders also manage:

Management loves routines for their sameness.

Efficient performance requires patterns.

Systems create stabilizing boundaries – routines – that produce predictable results. Without systems, organizations waste time and squander resources by unnecessarily re-inventing processes and procedures.


Innovation is inefficient at first. Leaders accept, even expect, inefficiency when they disrupt the stats quo.

How can leaders effectively disrupt without mismanaging organizations?