Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

The Frozen Middle Separates Management from Leadership (and Innovation)

Illustration created with culture design firm @GapingVoid

We live in a time of digital Darwinism. As technology evolves so do markets. And as they evolve, behaviors, values and norms also adapt. This sets the stage for the widespread disruption that we are witnessing today. Regrettably, or not, many reigning executives are not experienced to lead growth and innovation strategies as disruptive technologies radically shift everything around them. Yet, no matter how well we study history, it’s always doomed to repeat itself. There’s something about being in charge and surrounding yourself with other executives, boards of directors or investors that project a fallacy of invincibility.

“I know the world is changing, but I don’t see it affecting me. I’m in control. Everything is fine.”

These are the words of someone destined to tempt fate and inevitably repeat history. As I often say, disruption is the result of an all too familiar recipe where ignorance and arrogance result in irrelevance.

Disruption and innovation are not new concepts.

In the 1930s, Joseph Schumpeter introduced “creative destruction” to describe the natural phenomenon of new ideas and models transplanting incumbents that didn’t disrupt themselves.  According to Schumpeter, the “gale of creative destruction” describes the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”

The very nature of organizational design is generations old and it’s not only showing its age, it’s past the age of retirement. Too many executives fancy themselves as leaders. It comes with any hierarchical structure I suppose. Executives have people who report to them and middle managers and managers, and so on, who report upwards. It’s easy to confuse a chain of command or pecking order with leadership since technically, someone is acting as captain, someone is steering the ship and others work to keep the ship running and on course. The only problem is that in a world where agility, creativity and invention are charting new courses, most incumbent ships are navigating against dated charts and operating through aging procedures with legacy experience.

More so, many decision makers today suffer from what I call “out of touchness.” How they see the world and function within it is no longer in sync with the evolution of markets and societies. Without listening, without learning, without recognizing the differences between what we know and what we need to know, out of touchness places organizations directly on a path toward disruption.

Digital Darwinism is pervasive and it’s only accelerating. Everything is changing. How customers shop, how employees work, how we communicate, what we value, our aspirations, etc. are not exempt. Operating against a playbook written for yesterday is no longer sufficient to flourish tomorrow.

To survive digital Darwinism, agility and innovation now rivals scale as the fuel for future success. A new playbook is needed. A new generation of leaders, not operators or managers, are needed. And, in an era where disruption is a constant, creativity, vision and bold moves form a new foundation that separates the extraordinary from the ordinary.

Leadership and change starts when you step outside of your comfort zone.

_____

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet, Brian is world renowned keynote speaker and 7x best-selling author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Design, explores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design.

Please, invite him to speak at your event or bring him in to inspire colleagues and fellow executives/boards.

Connect with Brian!

Twitter: @briansolis
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ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “The Frozen Middle Separates Management from Leadership (and Innovation)”

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