Leaders and Disruption

Two seemingly unrelated opinion pieces crossed my electronic transom this morning that are in fact closely tied together.

The first is from MarketInsider.com and is titled The big lesson from Amazon and Whole Foods: Disruptive competition comes out of nowhere. The key point of the story is that all industries and companies are subject to rapid and unexpected disruption to their basic business models. As noted in the title, the most recent example of that is Amazon buying Whole Foods and in the process setting up disruption of the entire grocery industry.

The author wrote “This is why the majority of today’s leading companies are likely to go the way of Blockbuster, Motorola, Sears and Kodak, which were at the top of their game until their markets were disrupted, sending them toward oblivion…Companies now have to be on a war footing.”

The other column is in the Wall Street Journal and is titled It’s Lonely at the Top—or It Should Be: Leaders need time for reflection and hard analytical work, just like everyone else.

The key point in this piece is that the double-edged sword of technology makes everybody always accessible – not necessarily a good thing – and leaders must be conscious of the potential impact of that on their role. The authors wrote “…with an awareness of what we have lost, each of us can choose to reclaim it. And leaders in particular—whose actions by definition affect not only themselves—have more than a choice. They have an obligation. A leader has a responsibility to seek out periods of solitude.”

The connection between the two pieces is this: Unexpected disruption is actually now a common part of the strategic environment for all organizations, and leaders need to consciously find ‘think time’ away from temptations of time-eating technology and the grind of the day-to-day to ponder the bigger picture.

And then there’s the matter of how do you take a team through an intentional business model disruption process.

Two things to consider: 1) leaders need to schedule time on their calendars for future think; 2) leaders need to read about change like this piece from McKinsey & Company (Disrupting Beliefs: A New Approach to Business-Model Innovation) about how to stage change processes.