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2020 has universally and simultaneously disrupted every single one of us. We’ve been hit smack in the face by a global pandemic, social unrest, and the harsh realization that the “normal” way of work, and life, is a thing of the past.

You might even say that 2020 has been the great equalizer. Regardless of industry, business size, location, or product or service you offer, everyone has shared the same experience. We’ve all been forced to pause and adjust. We’ve all been forced to watch in-person interactions switch from being a constant to nonexistent in the blink of an eye. To say it’s been a shock is an understatement. So where do we go from here? How can you ensure your business can respond to change ahead of the pace of the marketplace? 

Blowing Up the Box

Companies that have survived over the long term – for decades and centuries – are the ones that didn’t stay stuck in their status quo, but disrupted their products and operations to create the next best thing (product, service, experience) that met customers’ needs and did it faster than their competitors. These organizations have managed to avoid being bogged down by incrementalism, adhering only to “rational thinking,” or making small moves forward by adjusting existing products in an effort to stick to just what they know and already do well. Disruptors think big. They act boldly and challenge assumptions. Their goal is to disrupt the marketplace they are in. And it works.

Consider Sears, which began as a mail-order watch and jewelry service and then morphed (or disrupted) into a booming catalog business. The brand touted having more merchandise under roof than anyone, offered a rewards program, and had a 100% money-back guarantee. This was unheard of. Sears was the ultimate retail trailblazer, becoming the largest retailer in the world, and remained untouched for years. Years! Until they weren’t the leader anymore. They failed to continually disrupt their business and as a result, they fell behind. No new innovations, no fresh ideas, no new customers. They lost the race.

2020 has been throwing curveballs, and the organizations that figure out how to connect with these pitches first, and best, will win. Everyone is in the game. Everyone needs to respond. So don’t be like Sears. Or Blockbuster. Don’t stay tethered to what you did well, but take your success and turn it into the next great thing. Be like the current disruptors, like Netflix and Amazon. If you feel a sense of urgency – good. You should. The time is now to spark ideas that may have felt far-fetched or out of reach before.

Get Everyone in the Game

You might feel overwhelmed, but it boils down to ensuring the disruptor mindset permeates your entire organization. The best disruptors, like Amazon, have become trailblazers by applying the same principles to their strategy. To help you integrate a disruptor mindset into your organization and give you a quick pulse check on where you stack up right now, review the principles below and answer the associated questions.

1) Understanding your purpose and being bold in bringing it to life – Consider not just what your company does, but what it achieves for the customer TODAY. Not yesterday. But today and in the future. Because needs have changed. Answer this question: What business practices or norms are you willing to give up to remain true to your purpose? What long-held assumptions need to be challenged? Leaders must be clear about what’s at stake and empower people to share ideas that break the current rules and to take risks. It’s time to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset as you pursue your why.

2) Creating a differentiated customer experience – The needs of customers have changed. No-touch delivery. Curbside shopping and pick-up. The actual, logistical ways we shop, dine, and socialize have changed. To create a differentiated customer experience, you need to think from the customers’ perspective. What changes do they need to see? What do they want? What problems are they encountering that we can solve? Ask yourself: Are we making business decisions based on what the customer wants and needs or based on what we, as a business, want and need? What can your business do to disrupt the marketplace?

3) Engaging your employees – If you want your people to show up (or, more likely, log on), they need to feel a part of the business. You need their buy-in and their ideas. They are experiencing the world very differently now and have a point of view you haven’t considered. So, give them a platform to do that, and do that consistently across the business. Ask yourself: Are we empowering our team members, at every level, to bring their best ideas and innovations to the table, and are our leaders willing to listen? How can I ensure everyone plays a part in our solution? Are we actively supporting innovation through our actions and how we allocate resources? Leaders must also be conscious of working to keep people, from the front line to the C-suite, engaged and motivated during a time when everyone is experiencing change fatigue.

Creating a Culture of Innovation During Change Fatigue

You’ve got to disrupt in the midst of change fatigue and some of the highest levels of disengagement the workforce has ever seen. Yes, the challenges are stacked. But all organizations are facing the same dilemmas. What are you going to do about it? The organizations that stay the same will fail because customers no longer have the same needs, beliefs, abilities, or opportunities. However, organizations that respond and innovate the quickest – the ones that use this national and global disruption as the impetus to become THE disruptor – will win.

If things feel dismal, just remember this reality: A lot of changes for the business world were already in the works pre-COVID era. The events of 2020 simply accelerated what was already in play. So now you must accelerate your response. As you focus on bringing the disruptor mindset throughout your organization, try thinking about it as an opportunity to reinvent yourself and come out better than before. 

What Are Your Next Steps?

What will you do with the ideas generated when you tap into your people? What’s your call to action to activate a disruptor mindset now? What’s your commitment to reinventing yourself? If you’re stuck on how to get started, try analyzing customer feedback, preferences, and what problems they are encountering. Determine customer loyalty drivers. Or conduct a market analysis of your competition.

Still stuck? At Root, we are extremely disruptive, in a good way, so let’s chat. Challenging you to become a disruptor and then empowering you and your people to get there is right up our alley. Let us help you be the disruptor before someone else disrupts you.

July 21, 2020


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