Disruption is essential in the workplace when it comes to challenging the status quo (for the right reasons of course). Practices and methods become engrained into the team, into the organisation, and over time these are met with reluctance to change.
‘This is how it’s always been done’, you’re told. ‘It’s worked fine without anyone sticking their nose in’.
‘Don’t fix what ain’t broke’…and all that carry on.
In order to progress – whether it’s professionally, entrepreneurially, or at work – there needs to be disruption. I deliberately use the word ‘progress’ too, as opposed to ‘get ahead’.
Many people can get ahead without disruption. Indeed they use the status quo to their advantage by seemingly playing the safe route to get ahead.
However, by choosing this option, they miss out on the opportunities to broaden their mind, develop existing skills, and be open to new learning experiences.
Where’s the problem-solving? Where’s the creative thinking? Where’s the approach that’s right for you?
This route is too narrow, having been formed probably years ago, and one that once worked either appropriately to the time or the individual (or both).
By being disruptive, you ensure that unexplored territory is identified, examined, assessed and tried out. And with such big risks may come big rewards.
So what do I mean by disruption?
Being disruptive is not about talking the loudest or stamping your feet the hardest. It’s about applying curiosity and inquisitiveness into questioning already-mapped-out procedures, career paths, processes, ways of working, even thought processes, and seeing if there’s a better way.
‘Rocking the boat’ sounds almost destructive, and we’re not rocking it to be awkward. Where a boat rocks comes ripples that could have a detrimental impact to the ecology and banks of the river for example. Without forward thinking, this could ruin any sort of credibility to going against the status quo again.
The term I much prefer is gracefully disruptive. It’s challenging status quo with grace, with forethought and thorough consideration.
So how do you become more gracefully disruptive?
Firstly, you need to understand why you want to be disruptive, and understand when you shouldn’t be disruptive.
The latter is probably the best starting by process of elimination. When you shouldn’t be disruptive is where emotion plays a heavy part in the decision making.
Using emotion to steer your disruption won’t be graceful. Of course emotion can be the foundation of the decision-making, the stimulus that urges you to react for a greater cause or better way to do things, but you mustn’t let it rule your actions.
Emotions, most times, are temporary. Your actions can be permanent. Tread carefully – or better yet let your head determine your actions.
Having decided to take a more emotionally intelligent approach, you can move on to why you should be disruptive.
The very act of being gracefully disruptive itself will provide you with strong leadership capabilities.
This isn’t necessarily leadership over people (although it can be); it can be leadership over processes, your career, your fate, your confidence – anything that is within your control that you have found, over time, slowly but surely, has been consumed by the status quo, or by other people’s assumptions that their way is best.
‘You need a degree for a good job’, they say, ‘that’s the way it’s always been done if you want a decent job.’
Not true at all; you can be successful without one (while also not drowning in tens of thousands worth of debt).
‘You need to do this particular process in this particular way because that’s how it’s done.’
Not necessarily; when was the last time this process was questioned? Is there a better way we can be doing this? Isn’t it time that this process is assessed for efficiency? If new ways haven’t been explored before, isn’t it narrow minded and dismissive to insist that this one way is the way?
‘You have to stick with one job with one interest in order to do well for yourself, nobody likes a job-hopper.’
Not the case; portfolio careers have proven successful for many professionals now and indeed may help them stand out from the crowd. New learning and new experiences have led these to the point where they have a unique set of skills that play off of each other and open up new, more effective ways of doing things.
Avid Doers v The Naysayers
This is where we avid doers can do so well in. We refuse to accept that one way of doing things is the way of doing things.
We have the stubbornness and can-do attitude to make things happen, and adopting a gracefully disruptive approach to our endeavours can only lead us to things quicker, more efficiently and more effectively.
Unfortunately there will be (and are) naysayers who like things mainstream and consistent with solid, trustworthy practices, and see avid doers as being awkward or sometimes even clueless. They don’t ‘avidly do’, they passively do, and therefore dismiss any sort of alternative ways of thinking.
Let’s question how things are done. Let’s disprove that the one way is the only way.
Let’s explore new ways of doing things that are right for us and our career and developmental needs.
Think of the learning and development opportunities that would go amiss if we didn’t question what is already in front of us and instead decide what is right for us by being gracefully disruptive.