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How to Navigate Disruption

career & business leadership & impact Oct 01, 2022

Want to create audacious change in your organization?

In an ever-changing world, organizations across various industries will inevitably face disruptions – and finding ways to navigate these disruptions effectively is crucial for long-term success. For many organizations, the key lies in having structures, systems, and a culture in place that will enable them to handle change with agility.

As a NY Times Bestselling author and Chief Research Officer at PA Consulting, an end-to-end innovation consultancy, Charlene Li has extensively studied the characteristics that allow some organizations to embrace audacious change by seemingly moving from disruption to disruption without skipping a beat. In Episode 106 of The MINDSet Game® podcast, Charlene discusses three of the most important characteristics and shares specific strategies that leaders can use in order to drive positive change in their teams and organizations.


1. Organizations that navigate disruption successfully focus on the needs of future customers.

While many organizations – particularly those that are large, established, and profitable – become preoccupied with tending to the needs of their current customers, Charlene warns that this level of comfort can blind the organization to seeing emerging opportunities that their smaller and newer competitors may seize. To overcome this potential disadvantage, she suggests that everyone within an organization, from frontline workers to senior leaders, should devote some attention to considering what future customers and their needs might look like. For instance, Charlene says that employees at all levels should be able to answer the following questions:

• Who is our future customer/client?

• What is our strategy to meet their needs?

• What is my individual role in making that strategy a success?


2. Adaptable organizations need leaders who can create a movement and momentum that will carry the organization into the future.

Charlene says that leaders need to define what the organization’s future will look like, start creating a movement in which their belief in that future will be adopted by everyone else, and build momentum and a base of followers around the movement. Additionally, it’s crucial that these followers include at least one person who can eventually become leaders themselves.

The movement must have a strong purpose and clear values that unite the team and define how they’re going to work together. However, it’s natural that some members of the team may have values that don’t fully align with those of the movement. When dealing with these individuals, Charlene suggests that leaders take a two-step approach:


• First, ask whether the individual agrees with the movement’s purpose and strategy. While everyone on the team will ideally have enough commonalities to work together, it is normal – particularly in the early stages of a movement – for some people to have differing ideas about the strategies that should be implemented. Leaders should consider what they can do to create more flexibility to accommodate different beliefs, while still maintaining coherence in the organization’s culture.

• If an individual is still creating dissonance after steps are taken to accommodate different ideas about the movement’s purpose and strategy, the leader should ask them whether they agree that the team should be on this journey in the first place. If the person fundamentally disagrees that the movement is worth pursuing, the team and/or organization may not be the right fit for them.


According to Charlene, leaders can tell that a movement is successfully underway when everyone is clear on what the team is trying to achieve and they’re focused on and excited about their individual contributions to that goal.


3. Organizations must create a culture that’s capable of dealing with flux.

The third characteristic of organizations that navigate change successfully comes from their culture – they use processes, structures, rituals, symbols, and stories that are focused on the future and accelerating innovation. Shifting an organization’s culture to become one that is capable of dealing with flux begins at the individual level, with leaders playing a key role. However, taking steps to adopt a flux culture is crucial – Charlene warns that organizations that don’t do so may lose opportunities to grow, begin stagnating, and eventually fall behind their competitors.



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