Words by Mark Kirkbride, hubbul
Not so long ago, before the digital revolution, the word disruption was and to some still is, a dirty word - perhaps a naughty whisper of impending doom. But to others, the word sparks a ‘hallelujah' moment, and one that brings welcome step change, evolution and even revolution.
Let’s look at disruption in another way, and simply call it "change" - The thing is, as people, we love the idea of change, but actually very few of us are brave enough to really embrace it.
We tend to wait to see how if affects others first. In general we aren’t natural early adopters, because with change comes innovation. Innovation and risk are best buddies, and with innovation and risk, along comes some scale of disruption.
Traditionally, the idea of disruption was born from innovations that improved a product or service and created new markets and value, which eventually kicked out or replaced the traditional model. You can apply this to business and tech - from smartphones, books, music, movies and cameras, right through to accommodation, taxi’s, labour and deliveries. The list is endless.
Change is now normal and constant, which means disruption is now constant. And these disruptive business models are really exciting. Disruptive companies find the right formula, they think fast and they grow fast.
Think about how quickly some of the biggest disruptors on the block, the likes of Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, eBay, Netflix, iTunes and Spotify, have given us instant access to what we want, on-demand. They embrace and lead change, going toe-to-toe with the norm, and in some cases giving it a good and well overdue economic spanking.
It’s almost unimaginable to we could even go a day without benefitting from the products and services that disruption has given us. Simple, everyday things would take longer to do, and we’d have nothing like the choices we take for granted. Put simply, we’d be a lot worse off without them. Just imagine life without mobile…
But disruption is a whole lot more than just ideas and change - it’s a way of life and a critical way of thinking, acting and being.
Disruption doesn’t stop the fun - disruption starts the fun - and sets a path others to follow, musing along the way “I wish we did that”.
These disruptive companies often start with one or two people with a very simple, game-changing idea.
Take Airbnb for example, these guys epitomise disruption. In 2007, two guys living in San Fransisco couldn’t afford their rent. To help, they offered out air-mattresses on the floor to paying guests, which looking back was the $10billion+ lightbulb moment. Through the sharing economy they’ve changed the way the world books apartments and places to stay. It’s now quicker, cheaper, more convenient. And to be honest, there’s no looking back.
The reality is, it’s the people that are the disruptors, the economic catalysts that create new value and markets and pioneer what is the everyday ‘things of tomorrow’ - the stuff we really couldn't do without. These people are Weapons of Mass Disruption, and the exciting thing is WMD’s are everywhere.
The on-demand workforce are the Weapon of Mass Disruption. These WMD’s are the highly skilled, well trained, self-managed, independent workers who implement and lead change. They are your very own SWOT team.
Change is business as usual, and by utilising WMD’s companies are able to innovate from the outside, on-demand and bring in the catalysts to future growth.
Take interim managers and execs - often brought in to lead and manage transformation. Like a military team, they burst on the scene and very quickly identify, eliminate and fix problems. They arm the business with a plan for future success before moving onto the next mission.
Independent workers as a whole, including freelancers, contractors and interims are on a tour of duty - armed with expertise, idea’s, innovations and the experience to change the game. It’s often said ‘the best ideas come from the outside’ and that’s exactly what WMD’s give you.
In the world of on-demand talent you have the ability to bring in specialist teams to fix, innovate and drive growth. And then before you know it the game changers - the WMD’s - are off, changing the game for other companies.
It’s not about replacing your entire workforce with contractors, it’s about identifying the ‘business as usual’ and specialist projects where external, disruptive innovation might just be a catalyst to high business performance. It’s no longer about filling the skills gap, it’s about accessing the skills and innovation to disrupt, change and outperform the market.
The potential for positive disruption through people is everywhere and happens daily - the challenge is, as we approach the explosion of the human cloud – how and when do we utilise disruption in the current workforce structure?
As with the term disruption, some companies who use of contractors, freelancers and interims, might still see it as a dirty word, an unwelcome influence that rocks the balance. But to other companies, who embrace disruption, they’ve already found their WMD’s, have taken aim and are ready to change the game.