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Jason Averbook: People transformation with a disruptive mindset

By: | February 4, 2020 • 5 min read
Jason Averbook is HRE’s People Side of Digital columnist. Averbook is a leading analyst, thought leader and consultant in the area of HR, the future of work and the impact technology have on that future. He is the co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, a global consultancy helping organizations shape their future workplace by broadening executive mindset to rethink how to better design and deliver employee services that meet the expectations of the workforce and the needs of the business. Averbook recently spoke at the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. He can be emailed at hreletters@lrp.com.

Digitization allows a laser focus on consumer experience, on customer behaviors, on the needs and wants of a generation that has watched the decline of brick-and-mortar retail, dining in and taking out, newspapers, textbooks, post office boxes, shopping malls, cassette tapes, parking meters and online privacy.

Watched the decline, or did we force the decline? Chicken. Egg.

Did those industries feel a compelling need to better serve their customers? Did competition force their hands? Or did their customers actually demand it—in a vacuum, with only a taste of its promise?

If the former is true, enterprises can rest on their laurels and decide when it’s time, decide when they’ll let customers in on the secret that something better may be possible, pick their own timing when they feel their business is ready to undergo disruption.

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If the other scenarios are more likely than the first—if they’re in play at all—every business owner or leader across the globe understands the need to digitize if they have a hope to survive, let alone thrive, in a competitive and customer-savvy experience economy.

Also see: Leading in times of disruption

Harvard Business Review reported 93% of business leaders confirmed delivering a relevant and reliable customer experience will be critical to their company’s overall business performance. And in today’s connected world, businesses are competing on speed and agility to meet customer expectations. The vast majority of organizations (97%) are currently undertaking or planning to undertake digital-transformation initiatives, hoping to increase efficiency and improve customer experience. Transformation is the response to both customer and competition, and companies are best served when they create their strategy proactively, not reactively. The time is now to put your organization in the driver’s seat of your own growth-driving transformation.

Disruption As a Growth Catalyst—Not a Salvage Mission

I led the witness in my earlier question: We know the answer. But chicken or egg is an important question to ask, because it begs the next one: If we’re not trailblazing, shaping and creating our own future—strategically and proactively imagining a better experience for our future employees and customers, and designing a more modern and future-proof way of delivering that—are we only and forever reacting?

Did you set a New Year’s resolution? Whatever it is, it probably involves change: changes to behavior, your workout routine, your approach to something, a healthier diet—something you’d like to improve or do better. You can’t change your actions, outcomes or future without first changing your mind to do it.

A mindset for disruption places a greater emphasis on growth mindset; on design thinking to create space for imagination, creativity and fresh approaches to status quo; on inventor behavior versus copycat behavior. When you have a disruptive mindset, you invite healthy disruption into your organization, recognizing it to be a catalyst for growth and innovation. It’s not chaos to be managed, it’s a culture to be nourished. You hire for this; reward, retain, and develop for this; give permission and incentive for this.

Lasting transformation cannot occur without mindset, leadership and culture to support it. Disruption is simply change you plan for, change that is welcomed and invited, change as a culture. If you don’t develop a mindset for transformation and future state, infuse this among your organization’s leadership and bleed it into your culture, your company will flounder rather than flourish under disruption. A disruptive mindset allows transformation to be empowering and accelerating—and not disruptive.

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“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”—Picasso

So, How Do You Create a Disruptive Mindset?

When you approach transformation and digitization as a culture, a choice, a new bar you set for yourself, you get everything else right: mindset, cultural alignment, executive sponsorship, change marketing and value articulation.

Technology doesn’t drive growth. Disruption drives growth; rather, growth breeds disruption. Disruptive, exponential change requires an approach to leadership, strategy and culture that is future-focused. Have you imagined what your future employee looks like? Your future customers? The future potential of your company requires an understanding of your future customer and the future employees you will need to help you drive the business.

Here are a few ways you can create a disruptive mindset, one that embraces transformation as an innovation and growth accelerator:

  1. Force your own demise. Identify the risks acting as barriers to future state or preventing you from making necessary changes. Consider personal prejudices, external detractors, limiting culture or belief systems that prevent you from embracing transformation as a way of being. Create strategies to address those.
  2. Create a movement around change, around your future. This is your rally cry; a movement is moving. Write your manifesto. This is your I Have a Dream speech. A movement is able to move without you because you’ve created supporters—torchbearers, if you will. Wrap a storytelling system around the disruption you’re creating: Identify a hero, use symbols and rituals, outline a journey to success and visualize an outcome.
  3. There’s a lot to be said around the power of visualization, and I don’t mean the kind intended to attract success or outcomes. Visualizing future state requires articulating a clear, commonly shared, top-down vision of the experience or outcome you expect to deliver, the changes that will require and the business model that will result.

Culture in disruptive organizations can thrive in flux. Beliefs and behaviors likely need to change in order to support disruption, and one can change the other. Align your beliefs around the future state you’re attempting to create, and behaviors will follow. Change your behaviors to support and move toward the future state you’re trying to create, and your beliefs will naturally reshape themselves as an outcome. Beliefs or behaviors should move you forward, not hold you back. Those might include transparency of leadership and mission, permission to share experiences and challenges, accountability and trust.

Transformation will be easier when approached with a disruptive mindset. It will sustain itself when fueled by mindset, leadership and culture. I’ll be talking more about this on Leapgen’s new business podcast, Revolution. Co-hosted by Jess Von Bank and joined by CEOs, CHROs, technology strategists, futurists and business-transformation leaders on topics including growth mindset, change enablement, transformational leadership, human resources and workforce design, Revolution is your new podcast for understanding and embracing the opportunity of digital transformation. Subscribe for upcoming announcements about this podcast, events and other resources to support your transformation efforts, or contact us to join the conversation.

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