Friday, September 19, 2014

Disrupting the disruptor

On the back of the success of companies like Apple, market analyst have created a frenzy around disruptive technologies. This word 'disruptive' is now being used to often justify risky business decisions. It's no longer driven by technology, but by human behaviours with Human Resource Managers trying to push it into the fabric of company culture.

I've blogged about the need to disrupt the marketplace before. This was always with the view of being able to excite the customer while catching competitors off guard. While I am supportive of this, it does carry significant risk. Infact, you need to be willing to bet the entire business on it. The odds of winning may be low, but the return may well be worth it.

Today, I am hearing more and more young people who are entering into their first years of management roles, talk about the need to be disruptive in the workforce. The motive being to cause people to think of newer and better ways to do things. But again, this comes with serious risk and is representative of start-up behaviour.

Toyota Motor Corporation has some of the world's slickest manufacturing lines. They are world renown for the term 'Kaizen'. Kaizen is Japanese for 'good change', also referred to as continuous improvement. Employees are encouraged to find ways to make small changes. Many small changes amount to huge gains in efficiency and quality. The risk is substantially lower than that of being 'disruptive'.

Kaizen is more of a long term process that is matured by time. It too comes with risk whereby consumer demands change when the organisation is unable to keep up. We're not all making motor vehicles so this will differ from organisation to organisation.

I think that we need to be constantly reviewing everything that we do, every process we have and every service we provide to make it better through small changes. There needs to be a balance between the 'disruptor' and 'kaizen' approach.

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