Disruptive Initiatives Must be Well Thought and Carefully Executed to Avoid Chaos

Living through the Age of Disruption

We live in an age of disruption where everything from our way of life to the way we work and indeed, the human biology is being disrupted by technological advances happening at breakneck speed.

While disruption is an integral part of the capitalist and free market model where creative destruction is the norm rather than the exception, such disruption must not lead to chaos where the effects of such disruption are far from ideal and what they were intended for.

There are many examples of disruptive innovation and disruptive governmental policies as well as disruptive organizational changes that have had the opposite effect of what they were intended to achieve.

Disruption that is Poorly Executed

For instance, the much venerated TATA group of corporates initiated a leadership change by bringing in a relatively distant family member (breaking with tradition that was marked by immediate family members heading the group) as a means of transforming the conglomerate. However, as it transpired, the result was that after a few years, there was a very public falling out between the incumbent and the predecessor heads leading to much bad press and washing of dirty laundry in public that did no little damage to the brand image and brand equity in the group.

While this organizational change was well thought (at least according to the prevailing view at that time) the change was poorly executed. As a result of diverging opinions on how to grow the group further as well as differing perceptions on mergers and acquisitions, there was a biter parting of ways.

Successful Disruption that is Revolutionary and Transformative

Having said that, some disruptive initiatives lead to revolutionary and transformative effects on the way businesses and indeed the world operates. For instance, both the rolling out of the Windows Desktop Operating System as well as the Apple iPhone was instrumental in changing the game altogether.

Windows led to basic changes in the way corporates operated wherein routine and time consuming tasks were now automated as well as workflow processes were computerized. Indeed, it can be said that the Windows OS release ushered in the software revolution.

Similarly, the release of the iPhone by the Late Legendary Steve Jobs lead to a fundamental shift in the way we lead our lives by bringing in the world to our fingertips. Of course, the internet and the Smartphone revolutions converged with the release of the iPhone in the same manner in which the computing and hardware revolutions dovetailed with the release of the Windows OS.

What these two disruptive initiatives had in common was that they were well thought out approaches to transformative change wherein the individuals mentioned along with an army of dedicated and committed employees ensured that such innovation resulted in Millions of Hours of painstaking work and was underlined by creative inspirations that were truly game changing in nature.

As we know now, the execution was also well done with much attention to the details of the actual procedural aspects.

Difference Between Thoughtful and Well Thought Out Disruptions

Of course, sometimes disruptive initiatives can be very thoughtful it not well thought out in nature. Before you get confused, what we mean is that sometimes disruptive initiatives might emerge after much thought though the details are not well thought out.

For instance, the Demonetization Exercise carried out in India in November 2016 had the potential to be truly transformative except that the move was aimed at fundamental behavioral changes and upending the cash driven Indian Economy to the extent that some experts now believe that the whole exercise was a failure.

In other words, disruptive measures must not only be innovative or the result of creative insights but adequate thought must be given to how they would affect the ecosystem stakeholders who are impacted by the move.

Talking about Demonetization, it is also the case that the execution was poor which lead to unnecessary chaos and confusion some of which continues even now. Thus, one can be disruptive but, at the same time must be creatively destructive instead of causing chaos.

Having said that, the GST or the Goods and Services Tax change was both well thought out as well as carefully planned. Indeed, the change was more than a decade in the making with bipartisan consensus and the close cooperation of the Central and State Governments being the hallmark.

However, the initiatives was not executed well or rather, while the planning for the execution was foolproof, the intended execution was something else.

In other words, one cannot have everything and sometimes, the best thought out and planned moves can fail in execution and the most creative insights can lead to chaos.

Managing Disruption

The key takeaway here is that disruption and the after effects are simply unpredictable and hence, it is always a good idea to be “on the ball” and “ahead of the curve” so that as many after effects as possible are managed properly.

As the former Defense Secretary of the United States used to remark, there are Known Knowns, and Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns. Thus, the trick is to plan for the first properly, execute diligently managing the second, and keep one’s fingers crossed for the third.

This means that while there are some things that we just cannot be prepared for, the fact remains that we must at least think through the things in our control and execute with the intention of managing the unknowns.

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Change Management