Embracing Disruption

“Disruption” sits atop the list of bromidic buzzwords, yet when it comes to scare tactic headlines, brimming with click bait we can’t seem to get enough. We continue to be drawn to articles that rely on catastrophic hooks to garner attention.

waiting for the world

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons: Waiting For The Word, Leonid Meteor Storm 1833. 

Are we prepared for disruption? Is our business prepared? Is this something new or simply an alarmist approach? Perhaps the driving force of disruption has always been a part of business-focused Darwinism forcing business to adapt and embrace or alternately face extinction?

I have been reading about disruption for decades (I am reminded of Clayton Christensen’s work on disruptive technologies which evolved into sectors and industries, for example). So what has changed now that we have much more experience with disruption? Here are some examples suggesting that disruption and its consequences are not only now evolving to a grander scale but also are making their mark much faster than ever:

  • In Exponential Organizations Salim Ismail suggests, “If businesses are growing faster, they’re also exiting much more quickly. In 1960, the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company was round 56 years; by 2014, it had dropped to nearly 15 years. Some even suggest that in just 10 years, 40% - nearly half – of today’s Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist.”
  • In a recent McKinsey Quarterly featured article, author Marc de Jong suggests, “Big companies have traditionally struggled to innovate in their business models, even as digital technology has brought business-model innovation to the forefront of the corporate agenda. Yet big companies can be disruptive too, if they identify and overcome common but limiting orthodoxies about how to do business.” The article infers that the desire to secure loyal customers has become exponentially complicated in the digital world. The cost to attain new customers has fallen and consumers have access to digital tools and online reviews and low switching costs have resulted in unstable retention rates.
  • Boston Consulting Group in Navigating a World of Digital Disruption, focuses on the third wave of the commercial internet (after dot.com and Web 2.0), referred to as hyper-scaling where big is becoming beautiful. In this categorization, competitive mass is beyond the reach of individual businesses thus compelling strategists to think of bold, new architectures for businesses.

Deloitte’s Future of Canada series: Age of Disruption, Are Canadian Firms Prepared? describes disruption as an incredible opportunity to improve upon productivity and mobility in anticipation of what’s around the corner. A company that is prepared to seize emerging opportunities is in an advantageous position.

Clearly disruption has become a way of life.  Continued (and continuous) large-scale change creates tremendous upheaval and uncertainty and unprecedented opportunity. If you recall another era when Canada was emerging from a devastating world war. We struggled with defining our economy once armaments and sending troops overseas became sunset industries and irrelevant business practices. Concurrently, an army of young, enthusiastic university and college graduates started entering the workforce with new ideas about just about anything that defined business, where it was done, how it was done, how it was organized, etc. The resultant tidal wave imposed tremendous pressure on the economy and created new sectors, new sensitivities and ultimately opportunity for young workforce entrants (the rise of environmentalism, growth of IT, a rise in sensitivities to aboriginal issues, growth of management consulting, etc).

While the details are now different, the storyline is the same – change is good. I would suggest that the resiliency of our profession rests on the capabilities of those in the profession. We have historically adjusted with the times. If in doubt, think about the historical methods and approaches that have defined our practices over the past few decades.

Many of the key preparedness pointers highlighted in Deloitte’s report showcase what is likely to allow businesses to stay competitive.  Their list of characteristics applies equally to CMC-Canada Members and what we aspire to be: agile, innovative, decisive, curious, communicative all within a collaborative and interactive network of many.

In 2014 CMC-Canada launched a highly successful campaign recommending the best (and sometimes, the only) solution for businesses struggling to face up to emerging challenges, such as disruption, engage the services of a CMC.

When you are facing a ferocious dragon, the person you want at your side is a bona fide hero, a Certified Management Consultant, armed with professional experience, rigorous training and a thirst for continuous growth and knowledge to tackle even the most challenging fire breathing issues.