Blowing Up the Box

You can’t open a business-focused blog or magazine without reading about the immediate need to change, pivot, shift, pause, speed up, update, amend, or modify your organization’s strategy to keep pace with customers’ needs. Regardless of your industry, target customer, or product/service sold, if you’re delivering the customer experience the same way you were doing it in January 2020, you’re doing things wrong.

That’s because the way we live, work, socialize, travel, learn and more is all a bit (or a lot) different now. One recent study tells us that consumers’ digital penetration has vaulted ahead by 10 years in the past three months. Things. Have. Changed. Therefore, incremental change is not enough – you need to do more. This time around, you can’t just think “outside the box.” You need to blow up the damn box.

Step 1 is filling the role of Chief Disruption Officer, or CDO. But don’t worry about creating a job posting, because you don’t need to actually hire anyone. Disruption starts with an individual – it starts with you. This means every person in your organization can be the CDO. And if you or someone you work with is thinking, “I’m not in a position of influence,” well, that’s wrong. Because you are! Do you have ideas? Is there someone above or next to you to share those ideas with? If so, then you do, in fact, have influence and the power to be a disruptor.

Beyond the CDO role, there are a few musts for any organization hoping to achieve disruption:

#1: They are purpose obsessed.

#2: They create an entrepreneurial culture.

#3: They deliver a differentiated customer experience.

The most successful companies are constantly disrupting. Some are able to disrupt decade after decade, while others can keep disrupting from one century to the next! These companies all have the previously mentioned three things in common.

Disruption Demands an Unwavering Focus on Your Purpose

The companies that stand the test of time are unwavering in their pursuit of their purpose, which shouldn’t be confused with an unwavering commitment to a specific product or service. Take Nintendo, for example. The company started in 1889 with the purpose of delivering interactive entertainment. Back in the late 1880s, this meant good old-fashioned playing cards. But they evolved and adapted, from playing cards to board games to electronics to intellectual property. For more than a century, they didn’t just make incremental changes – they stayed focused on their purpose and blew up the damn box time after time. And it’s a good thing they did, because their brand is as strong today as they were 100 years ago.

How to do it: Ask yourself every day, “What is our purpose? What are we willing to give up to remain true to it?”

Disruption Means Fostering an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Disruptive organizations mirror the mindset of start-up businesses. They are always on the hunt for the next big idea and realize that the collective mind of the organization is more powerful than the few in the boardroom. The story behind the beloved Starbucks Frappuccino is a great example. As you might know, the coffee behemoth started out selling hot coffee. But in warmer months, customers began asking for iced coffee. This inspired the creativity of a manager who decided to use a blender to mix up some ingredients that every Starbucks store already had: coffee, sweetener, and ice. It was a homegrown idea that was allowed to move from the front line to the corporate office and back again to create a $3 billion product line.

On the flip side, Kodak experienced a fall from grace because they refused to disrupt. They had a great purpose: “Share Moments, Share Life.” They even had the initial patent on the digital camera – and a way to capture memories via a digital device should have helped them uphold that purpose. But they refused to disrupt their film business. Their stubborn commitment to selling film drove them from being a Fortune 500 company to delisting from the stock exchange.

How to do it: Encourage entrepreneurial thinking and create feedback channels from the front line to the top and back again.

Disruption Requires You to Deliver Something Customers Can’t Find Elsewhere

When it comes to giving your customers a differentiated experience, it’s not just about the product – because any product can be knocked off. The true differentiator is customer experience. If you’re curious about what a disruptive customer experience looks like, consider Chick-fil-A. Whether you’re a fan of KFC, Popeyes, or Boston Market, there’s no denying that the customer experience at Chick-fil-A is atypical and surpasses all competitors. After all, what other fast food restaurants have employees walking up and down the lines to greet customers who are standing in the queue or stuck in a backed-up drive-thru? Chick-fil-A employees create connections and help ensure personalized orders come out right, even during the busiest of times. It’s a winning experience that seems to be unstoppable.

How to do it: Create a customer experience that generates an emotional connection between your people and the customer.

Are You Ready to Blow Up the Box?

If you can’t tell, I believe we should all be wearing the hat of Chief Disruption Officer because blowing up the box is a sure-fire way to build an organization that’s here to last. It is the singular key to survival. Thankfully, there are many organizations that have disrupted with great success, giving you proven formulas to start thinking differently about your marketplace, limitations, and possibilities.

Leaders: You must remember that disruption comes at every level of the business. This isn’t an executive-level responsibility. Some of the best and most disruptive ideas come from the front line. So be listening. Check in. Ask for ideas. Give your people the freedom to do small trial runs of new ideas. Informal testing is the best way to see what works and what doesn’t. After all, if Starbucks didn’t continue to follow its purpose, foster an entrepreneurial mindset, or care about delivering something different to customers, we’d never have the Frap, and that would just be insanity.

I’m so passionate about helping businesses become disruptors that stand the test of time that I’ve written a book dedicated to this very topic. Stay tuned; it’s coming soon.

September 22, 2020


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