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Leaders must embrace ambiguity, live with uncertainty for long periods of time, and confront the critiques of naysayers both inside and outside of their organizations.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, summarized the essence of the leadership challenge when he said, “Any time you do something big, that’s disruptive, there will be critics…
Put bluntly, there’s simply no way to build tomorrow’s essential organizational capabilities—resilience, innovation and employee engagement—atop the scaffolding of 20th century management principles.” Hamel goes on to say, “In an age of wrenching change and hyper-competition, the most valuable human capabilities are precisely those that are least manage-able[iii].” While a disruptive innovation can be seen and understood in retrospect, it is debatable whether it can be transferred into a formal, repeatable process.
Whether going after disruptive innovations that leapfrog competitors and customer expectations, or focusing on “blue oceans[iv]” that represent white-space opportunities to create entirely new markets, the leadership issues are similar.
Perhaps the most defining characteristic of disruptive innovation is the great uncertainty that it creates for leaders, organizations, and entire industries.
The music, entertainment, computing, mobile phone, book publishing, photography, and healthcare industries have all experienced dramatic change due to new technologies, business models, distribution channels, government regulations, and market expectations.
During Target’s breakthrough growth years, the Target team used its own instincts to infuse everything with leading edge design, from transforming store layouts to creating partnerships with designers like Philippe Starck.
Consumers didn’t know what they had been missing when going to Wal-Mart or Sears until Target showed them how “Tar-zjay” could give them “cheap chic” in a way no other retailer could.
This article highlights the key dynamics involved in leading disruptive innovation.Many leaders rely on research and data for decision-making to manage daily operations, for example, but during times of disruption, waiting for hard data to make decisions can quickly result in failure.Leaders must be comfortable using whatever information they have on hand, integrating inputs from diverse sources around them, and then using their intuition to round out the decision-making process.Down with convention, then, and up with what this author terms LEAPS, an original but potentially very effective way of leading and managing disruptive innovation.In today’s complex, dynamic world, having a disruptive innovation capability is mandatory, both for growing a business and protecting existing markets.