6 April 2019

Why Most Companies Will Never Disrupt Anything: A Note On Innovation And Conformity

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Guy Who Likes Being Heard, Not Herded; photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash…

Investors, entrepreneurs, and execs all talk about “disruption” so much that they’ve worn out the word. But few companies can deliver that level of innovative thinking. The reason?

Before they can disrupt an industry, they need to disrupt their own corporate cultures.

If they want their employees to be innovative, they must stop hiring for “cultural fit.” Innovation requires people who see a business differently.

Indeed, if the corporate culture isn’t generating any ideas whatsoever, it’s likely because all the employees have become conformist “team players.”

And conformity is the enemy of innovation.

To disrupt that lockstep thinking, companies need to bring in one or more outsiders who just don’t fit. That outsider could be an agency, a consultant, or an employee from another office — ideally one in another country.

At the same time, they should remove or reassign managers who shoot down new ideas and try to get the newcomers to do things “the way they’re done around here.”

Will this experiment be smooth and pretty and conflict free? They should hope not. Because conflict with the status quo is what disruption is all about.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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Mark Armstrong
5 years ago

Yes, “disruption” must go in the trash bin with all the other sad buzzwords. The worst part about conformity is that it’s self-perpetuating, and produces sameness which is the mortal enemy of marketing. Thanks for the wakeup call! ?