Who and what is disrupting your industry? This simple question and the complicated response is critical data that most CEOs are contemplating on an hourly basis. If you ask, your CEO is likely to reply that she is, in fact, the disruptor or is worried about being disrupted.

If you think disruption is occurring, take the bold move to ask your CEO if she has faith in your team’s ability to respond to rapid disruption. The Forbes survey, titled “Disrupt and Grow,” included 400 CEOs across eleven industry sectors. Two-thirds of the CEOs surveyed think their organizations “do not have the sensory capabilities and innovative processes to respond to rapid disruption.”

Based on our experience working with many clients trying to transform in the context of market changes, we suspect that what we have here is a bad case of disruption avoidance.

We all understand avoidance. Disruption pushes us out of our comfort zones. It challenges conventional wisdom and the ways we have always done things. It scrambles our routines by forcing us to confront skills sets we don’t have and expertise we need to develop.

The question, now that you’ve read this far, is whether this makes you feel uncomfortable or energized? If uncomfortable, we challenge you to ask yourself whether you are content to hide under your desk hoping disruption will leave you alone (it won’t), or if you are ready to jump up, embrace your vulnerability and start disrupting your own teams.

Here are a few things we have learned as our consulting teams at Tunheim help clients begin the process of embracing disruption to better their organizations’ competitiveness.

We make this offering with one important caveat: we consider this a rapid prototype process. We and our clients have to go into it ready to embrace a process confronting a new and different set of factors. It is fast, it can be uncomfortable – embrace the process and it can be fun.

#1 Take a shot at challenging the positioning

Ask the question: Where are we now versus where we need to go? Where is the high ground that challenges the existing equation in our sector? As an example to ignite your thinking process, consider a couple industry examples where disruption is challenging old-world positioning:

ENTERTAINMENT: HBO’s pivot from a subscription-based model for cable and satellite to developing its own platform, and licensing content to other streaming platforms (Amazon Prime).

MANUFACTURING: Repositioning Lego from a plastic toy company, with an unprofitable game to digital designer producing movies, a hardware/software robot platform and video games.

You get the idea.

#2 Survey your executive team

Ask your executive leaders about the things that keep them up at night. How do their answers compare to what their industry peers say? There are several great research polling groups that constantly survey most business categories with this information. The internal answers you gather versus category research on these questions, may be an eye-opening experience. If nothing else, this should spur deeper conversations about disruption and its effects on your organization. In the end you want to understand what needs to be different within your organization that will enable transformation.

#3 Identify industry trends

Perhaps the easiest step in the process is identifying trends. This is an exercise to compare and contrast where value is being created, how innovation is being unlocked, the role of technology versus talent and perhaps most importantly, the new and improved customer centric focus. In the end, every trend is a response to one overarching credo: Remove friction from every step in your process. If you need inspiration check out the case study of the entertainment company that was nailing customer service at every touchpoint – only to find they were losing significant ground in overall satisfaction. The McKinsey study can be found here.

#4 Who is the competition, really?

Who are your competitors and where are they going? There are no secrets. Between thought leadership publishing, quarterly financial reports and annual reports (with information-rich MD&As), there is a wealth of information outlining what your competitors are trying to achieve. Mine this for all it is worth.

One warning: Do not make the mistake of limiting your search to historic competitors. Technology is making it easy to be a disruptor. The real competition is likely to be found outside your typical industry sector. Who are the outliers looking to disrupt your market?

#5 Identify challenges and opportunities

Get beyond the usual challenge/opportunity bucket list. Consider that yesterday’s data bottlenecks are becoming today’s opportunities. The ability to leverage operating systems for data to inform key product and customer insight is a high priority within most organizations.

CEOs have begun an important pivot away from initiatives aimed at understanding customers, to fully funding tasks focused on execution that delivers against customer expectations.

The good news about this exercise is that you and your team(s) will have a better understanding of the challenge of being a disruptor. The really good news is that if you invest the time and ignite your teams, your CEO is unlikely to be worried about your ability to help her disrupt the category.

Truth is, there’s nothing better (or more fun) than being the disruptor, once you are armed for the role.

Tunheim’s core credo is to help its clients be understood by stakeholder audiences who are critical to success. We help clients through this disruptor process and then help them communicate their new positioning for business success.

Can Tunheim help your organization prepare to disrupt? Contact Us to get started today.

KPMG U.S. CEO Outlook – Disrupt and Grow, June 2017

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