Disrupt Yourself

Awhile back, I listened in on a web summit on work and leadership. One of the speaker’s was Whitney Johnson who spoke on disrupting your work and career.

Johnson is the author of Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work. She has a varied background including secretary on Wall Street; investment banker; equity research analyst; television producer; children’s book author; hedge fund cofounder; and now speaker, writer and consultant.

Throughout her zigzagging career trajectory, Johnson noticed key similarities to her company’s investment strategies that focused on disruptive stocks – companies that created new markets by upending existing ones. The concept of disruptive innovation was developed by Clayton Christensen, her partner in the investment fund.

Disrupt Yourself

Johnson feels that people can apply the concept of disruptive innovation to their work and their careers. If you’ve reached a plateau or you’re not happy on your current career ladder, then you should disrupt yourself just as innovative companies do. A prime motivator is that successful disruption can yield six times the success than the status quo.

However, you shouldn’t go blindly into the fray. You need to ask yourself four questions prior to disruption of your career.

Are You Taking The Right Kind Of Risk?

Disrupters look to fill needs that are not being met well. They “play where no one else is playing.” Look around you, pay attention to the needs that aren’t being met. That’s where opportunity lies. What can you do to effectively meet those needs?

Are You Playing To Your Strengths?

What is it that you do uniquely well? What you do well that others can’t. Those are your disruptive strengths. If you have difficulty defining what they are, take the StrengthsFinder assessment from the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. At the end of the timed, online assessment, you’ll be given a report on your top five strengths. Use them to frame your disruptive strengths and your leadership narrative.

Is It Hard, But Not Debilitating?

“If it feels scary and lonely, you are probably on the right track,” says Johnson. Disruption is not for the feint of heart. They often find themselves in new territory where old rules and old metrics don’t apply. Disruptors often have to develop their own metrics to chart their progress. Rethink how you define success.

Am I Gaining Momentum?

Disruptors are flexible. They let their strategy emerge. Because disruptors don’t follow a prescribed path, they can’t always see the end point from the beginning. And they fail, but they learn from their failures and adjust their strategy accordingly. They adapt.

Can You Disrupt Your Career?

Professional disruption is critical to avoid stagnation and being overtaken by younger, faster, cheaper competitors.

How do you respond to the four questions above to identify the next level in your career?


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