Three Things Everyone Should Know to Successfully Deal with Disruption

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Both on an individual level and on the scale of major organizations, the thought of disruption can provoke a range of reactions such as skepticism, criticism, stress, anxiety, or even panic. After all, most people love their comfort zones to some degree, and are invested in the system they know; the thought of an innovation or process change that could undermine all that and shake things up significantly is never going to be a comfortable one. But disruption is also welcomed by others as a vital source of fresh energy, stimulus, and ideas.

Here are some ways in which everybody can stand to learn more about disruption and put that knowledge to good use.

Leveling out the playing field

Rolling the dice, introducing something random or unexpected in a system is bound to upset a specific profile: the established players. Large organizations possess significant competitive advantages and can maximize economies of scale in ways that are unavailable to smaller businesses, but one thing they struggle with is adopting new systems and processes. Making wholesale change is much easier when you have a headcount under 25 employees or so – the average limit for startups. In the past, for example, digital marketing proved disruptive across industries; diverse new enterprises use aggressive and smart marketing to break in and compete against established players. Oral surgeons can use SEO techniques to start their practice and instantly build a client base. Thus, even without being able to predict any future disruptions, small-scale outfits are perfectly positioned to take advantage of a level playing field.

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The need to adapt

One current wave of disruptive technology that’s starting to find its way into many applications and industries is artificial intelligence. AI-driven automation has been around for decades; the fear among many people that robots will eventually take over our jobs goes back to before the turn of the century. But only recently has the increased power of computing finally harnessed its potential for improving process efficiency in a variety of sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, retail, financial, and legal services.

There is certainly cause for concern, but a disruption is always an opportunity to adapt. In the case of AI, workers will need to learn new skills; as automation takes over repetitive, high-volume, process-bound workflows, new jobs will be available for those with the skill to oversee these processes, perform maintenance, and provide human input where it may prove necessary. Adaptation is the best way to respond and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

Harnessing diversity and talent

Some companies seek to drive innovation themselves, while others value being agile and maintaining flexibility. Both approaches work for dealing with disruptive change, and in both cases an organization will benefit from a diverse pool of talent. This isn’t about inclusivity for its own sake, or keeping up cosmetic appearances. True diversity brings together a wide range of perspectives and talents. The breadth of these points of view inform an organization’s decision-making and give its leadership the curiosity and open-mindedness needed to embrace and harness the potential of disruption.

Any company or individual will have to deal with the far-reaching and often unpredictable effects of many new disruptions over the coming years. Keep these tips in mind, and they will help you to make use of opportunities, become adaptable, and take the appropriate response each time.

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