This topic was actually triggered by a conversation I had with a coaching client. He has been in an organisation for about seven years and has been promoted rapidly, and has responsibility for a number of different countries. We were talking about the fact that as we move up the ladder in any organisation, one of the things that you are required to do is actually conform to the organisational culture. In other words, you need to fit into how the organisation operates. As you know, every organisation has their rules, norms, values, behaviours, similar to countries.
For anyone to successfully navigate working in an organisation they need to actually fit into the organisational culture. Those who’ve been around for a while know what the right thing to do is, or how decisions are made, or what the process is for getting things done. Of course, if you fit into the organisational culture, you then move up the line. This particular individual is now in a role where they are required to disrupt the current status quo. In other words, this person needs to change their whole way of being from actually having conformed to now being a disruptor. The conversation that we were having was – is it possible to be inside an organisation and be a disruptor at the same time, or do disruptors only come from the outside? If you think about it, most organisations bring in consultants, because the consultants are disruptors. Sometimes consultants come in and say things in the organisation, and people in the organisation will say, ‘Yes. We knew that anyway, but we needed somebody from the outside to let us know about it.’ That’s why we bring in disruptors.
In my conversation with my client, we started looking at some of the behaviours that he needed to put in place to become a disruptor, because for the last seven years he’d actually conformed to fit the organisation norm. Now, he was needing to change his behaviour, which I was quite challenging. Some of the things we came up with were, instead of him being the only disruptor, it was within his power to actually assign people within the team to also become disruptors as well.
The second point we discussed was if somebody comes up with a disruptive idea, even though it may be easy to disregard it straight off, it’s actually important to pause, reflect on the idea, and then provide some feedback. It may seem ridiculous, but sometimes a ridiculous idea can lead to something else. The final point we discussed was how do we in fact create success stories of disruptors within the organisation?. We need to have some role models. Therefore, who are the people in the organisation who have been disrupting, and how do we create more stories about it, so we can use them as examples in trying to encourage disruption?
So, here’s my reflection point. Have you actually conformed to the general norm, because that’s what’s given you the promotion, but in the role that you are in now, do you keep on conforming, or in fact do you need to be more of a disruptor? I would say that as you become more senior in an organisation, you need to be able to balance the two. In other words, you need a degree of conformity, because that gives stability. At the same time, you need to be able to disrupt the current way of thinking, or you need to disrupt the way of operation, so you can allow new ways of thinking, new ideas, innovation, et cetera. If you’re not going to be doing that, then how do you encourage other people in your groups to do that?