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Tag Archives: exponential change

Disruptive innovation … do you know the warning signs?

Is it possible for a small young company to outperform an industry titan, for David to beat Goliath?  Yes.  Just ask Uber, Netflix and AirBnB.  Upstart Uber became one of the world’s largest taxi companies without owning a single taxi.  Netflix revolutionized the video market, essentially putting Blockbuster out of business.  AirBnB has become an accommodation provider to be reckoned with, without acquiring a single piece of real estate.  It’s called disruptive innovation.  And many a senior leader across North America loses sleep over whether it could happen to their company, and perhaps more importantly, how they could prevent it.

Disruptive innovation is often overlooked

Historically, established corporate leaders don’t often see disruptive change as a hazard, usually because it starts when their own company’s profitability is robust and the competitive impact is minimal.  However, by the time the threat is conspicuous, the disruptive force has already gained so much traction that any efforts to reverse the tide are futile.  So what is really needed is an advance warning system.  Which is exactly what I cover in my latest column for The Globe and Mail, out this morning!

How to spot the warning signs of disruptive innovation before it hurts your company

In this column, I identify three specific actions leaders can take to assess whether their company and industry will come under attack, well before the threat becomes a reality; three things you can do to ensure that you don’t become collateral damage when your market niche is disrupted.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link:

So I’d love to hear your experiences and perspectives on disruptive innovation.  What have you observed in your industry?  What have you seen that leaders have done really well, or missed completely?  Please share by commenting below.

How to manage change in the workplace

BCHRMA_logoIf you’re a supervisor or manager then you don’t need me to tell you that workplaces today are changing exponentially – you’re living it!  Resources are fewer, yet you and your staff are being asked to accomplish more tasks, give greater levels of customer service, and achieve improved results.  All this while your workload escalates and your time seems to vanish into thin air.  Yet not everyone responds in the same way to this rapid pace of change.  You likely may have one or two staff who roll with the punches and quickly bounce back from even the biggest knockout.  But you’re just as likely to have employees who resist all change and struggle to keep up with even the smallest modifications.  So what can you do to help yourself and your people successfully deal with this reality of today’s rapid pace of change?

My latest article recently published in the BC Human Resources Management Association‘s online magazine – HRVoice.orgoffers a key insight: while negative change is often unpredictable, people’s reactions to it tend to follow a classic model. Continue reading

Survival depends on how you transform to fit your environment

Fred Smith, the man who founded Federal Express in 1971, is a classic example of someone who built a successful company by being responsive to changes in customers’ expectations and in the business environment.  FedEx originally started as an idea in a term paper that Smith wrote for an economics class in 1965, while he was still an undergraduate at Yale University.  His premise: as productivity increases with the use of machinery, breakdowns in equipment can easily destroy any efficiency and profitability.  Therefore, a system needs to be developed to ensure that organizations have rapid access to spare parts and materials as they are needed.  With this as a starting point, in 1973, Smith created the now-famous hub-and-spoke-system with his “hub” in Memphis, Tennessee.  Success followed, but the world began to shift more towards a knowledge-based economy.  Continue reading

Overcoming resistance to workplace change – Part II

Earlier this week, I blogged about how change is the only constant in today’s business world, and I offered you two specific ideas to bring people on board when they resist change. Here are three more.

  1. Proactively address the objections. Every change effort has its disadvantages and your opponents will be sure to put them on parade. Pre-empt them by anticipating and acknowledging their doubts, and then respond to their concerns with your own compelling argument AND offer solutions that will at least attempt to mitigate their fears and worries.
    The Greek symbol for change
  2. Find ways to build momentum. Just as there is always a fraction of those who oppose change, there is also a small group of people who are the front-line change adopters. You can recognize these folks right away – these are the ones who jump up and say “Let me at them!” Use these people to build momentum. You don’t have to carry the entire load of the change effort on your shoulders; let these people help you spread the good word.
  3. Be a broken record. Stay on message, repeat your compelling arguments, persist with those who are against the change. Don’t let your nay-sayers off the hook, particularly if they are your staff members; hold them accountable to achieving the department’s or organization’s goals.

Any change effort will come up against dissenters. It’s up to you to find a way to break through the opposition and bring the cynics and resisters on board. These five ideas (three today and two from Monday April 22) are guaranteed to help. What other ideas do you have?

Overcoming resistance to workplace change – Part I

Nothing endures but change

– from Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius

Chinese symbol for change
Chinese symbol for change

Laertius may have penned these famous words circa 3rd century, but they are just as true today as they were eighteen centuries ago.  If you’re a manager or supervisor in an organization, then you know that one of your primary responsibilities (and one of your challenges) is implementing change.  Whether it’s revising work processes to fit today’s environment, learning about new technologies that impact your business, or simply implementing a new version of existing software, not only is change all around you, but the rate of change is growing exponentially.  And unfortunately, any change effort will come up against a small fraction of people who will resist it.  Change is inevitable, but unless you actively manage the opposition, your change effort can lose momentum and fall off the rails.  So what can you do to deliberately and purposefully bring your resistors on board?  I’ll give you two specific ideas today, and later this week, I’ll give you three more.

  1. Give people the “big picture”.  One of employees’ biggest frustrations about change is that sometimes it feels like it’s done just for the sake of doing something in the short-term, and not necessarily with an overall long-term objective in mind.  When that happens, people view the change simply as an inconvenience to them as individuals.  Instead, take the time to show people that what they view as a hassle is actually beneficial some place else, and to the organization as a whole.  Tie the change to an overall advantage.  Which leads me right into the second strategy.
  2. Give factual information.  Offer evidence that shows that the change is valuable for the company.  If you have hard data, share it.  If there are other individuals who have gone through similar change efforts, hold them up as examples of success.

Check in on Thursday and I’ll offer you three more specific suggestions for how you can get your people to stop fighting change and perhaps even help you implement it!  In the meantime, do you have any suggestions?

Are you the bulldozer, or the road?

As this bulldozer of change rolls over our planet, we have a choice: to become part of the bulldozer, or part of the road.

— Frank Ogden in The Last Book You’ll Ever Read

Futurist Frank Ogden penned these words in 1993.  Today, seventeen years later, this bulldozer is bigger and faster than ever, as the pace of change in workplaces and homes across the country increases exponentially.  Consider this example: it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, television 13 years, the Internet four years, and the iPod three years.  In contrast, in just a nine month period, Facebook added 100 million users, and downloads of iPhone applications reached one billion.  Or ponder this.  Today, the amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years.  Translation: for students starting a 4-year technical degree, half of what they learn in the first year of study will be outdated by the third year of study.  Bottom line: it doesn’t matter what aspect of your professional and personal life you consider, the pace of change is increasing exponentially.

If you work in an organization, does it irritate the heck out of you when new versions of software are released and you still haven’t figured out how to use the earlier version?  If you’re a supervisor or team leader, does it drive you crazy to see your younger staff texting each other constantly?  If you’re in front-line customer service, does it annoy you when clients keep expecting more for less?  You have two alternatives to approach these realities.  You can hope that they are passing fads and that sooner or later, everyone will come to their senses and these frustrations will go away.  In the meantime, you’ll just stay out of the bulldozer’s way (and hope you don’t get run over).  OR … you can take action to try and influence the bulldozer’s direction.  This option starts with a change in your attitude.  Ask questions, request to be involved, and offer your assistance – become part of the solution by becoming a positive force for change.  As Ogden said, you have a choice – to become part of the bulldozer, or part of the road.  Which one will you choose?