You Can Be a ‘Disruptor’ or You Can Be ‘Paranoid:’ Your Choice!

Disruption. It’s one of the biggest buzzwords that I’m hearing a lot these days. Many clients are asking, “How can we be the next Airbnb, or Uber? How do we change the world in this ever-changing world?” While it’s not an easy answer, it’s not necessarily as hard as you might think.

When I was on the East coast last week, I met a gentleman who introduced himself as a “disruptor.” Curious, I asked him what that meant. He replied, “I ask people the really, hard uncomfortable questions. I make them think, stretch beyond what they think is realistic.” I didn’t respond for a moment, and then I politely inquired, “I interpret disruption to be about changing ‘something,’ so that a total industry or sector is displaced. How have you been able to do that?” He hemmed and hawed, and couldn’t come up with any examples – even small ones – of how his tough questions have resulted in a displaced service or product. After our conversation, I’m not sure that he’ll introduce himself as a disruptor again.

This topic has been on my mind, because I’ve been holding on to Michael Schrage’s recent article, “5 Questions That Will Help You Stay Ahead of Your Disruptors.” I saved the article, not because I have secret plans to become a disruptor myself, but rather because the article focuses on how to ensure your customers experience value. Since I am always looking for ways to improve SHG Advisors, I intend to occasionally have my Board ask me the questions included in the article. And the last sentence is a good reminder to me to always stay on my toes: “Only the paranoid survive.” At this point, I’ll never lay claim to be a disruptor – even though asking hard questions is part of my everyday work. I’ll simply continue to maintain my professional “paranoia,” and ensure that my clients have a superior user experience.

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