Dealing with Disruption

There really isn’t anything like a safe job in a safe company anymore. Job security has become a casualty of disruptive innovation. Earlier generations spent entire careers in the same company in a ‘cradle to grave’ track.  My father worked for two companies in roles of progressively greater responsibilities during his career.  I have worked for or started six companies during my career.  In contrast, our talent workers today move from project to project pursuing technologies or concepts where they feel connected and appreciated.  They might be independent contractors, no longer wanting to spend an entire career climbing a corporate ladder.

Today entire industries are being or have been disrupted. U.S. President Obama has cast a vision where we will return to an era of bygone days, where workers can have steady jobs in durable industries, where long term sustainable employment abounds. Unfortunately, that employment scenario is a thing of the past. In fact, it’s doubtful we will ever go back to durable, sustainable industries. Today, there are no more jobs available that offer long term job security. We are now in an age of massive disruption, and if we can restructure our thinking and behavior for our own careers, and adjust as leaders that embrace the disruptive innovative new economy, we have a good chance to succeed and prosper.

The ‘Age of Disruption’ has witnessed the creation of many new companies, developing new technologies, with decentralized flat structures, and customer centric models providing many benefits for users of products and services unheard of even a decade ago. Some recently successful companies come to mind, such as Apple (iphone, ipad, ipod, itunes), Uber (transportation) Amazon & Zappos (ecommerce) Google (search, email, maps, communication, video), Airbnb (travel), LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and many others.  These successful companies share some common practices, developing cultures within their companies that encourage innovation, and building the customer experience into everything they do.

There are companies in every industry that are creating new products and services every day, and entrepreneurs that are starting new companies, willing to risk personal resources to develop, fund, and commercialize their new ideas.  What are these companies and entrepreneurs doing to be so successful, and how can leaders of incumbent companies make appropriate adjustments in their own models, allowing them to innovate and disrupt their own models and methods in order to succeed?