SharpAlice Book Summary & Review:
“Disruption” has become synonymous with the internet and technology boom of the last decade. Netflix disrupted the market for video rentals and resulted in the demise of Blockbusters. Amazon disrupted book selling and as a result Barnes&Nobles toppled from its market leading perch and is still struggling to survive in today’s new context. Established companies now all chase innovation in order to avoid the same fate. As the saying goes,”It is better to disrupt, then to be disrupted”.
Whitney Johnson’s book, “Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work“, exhorts us to take these principles of disruption theory and apply them to ourselves in order to overhaul our careers and create a new phase of personal super-growth and career success. Like with businesses, we might otherwise find ourselfves “disrupted” and pushed off our career curve before we have a chance to do anything about it.
This is not a book that just encourages us to “dare greatly and do it anyway”. Instead the book leverages the logical thinking of disruption theory to give us a very clear 7-step roadmap on how to disrupt ourselves by helping us understand
- what the criteria are to assess which are the right opportunities to pursue
- how to play to our distinctive strengths
- why constraints on our efforts to disrupt ourselves are a good thing, and when managed appropriately will actually help us be more successful
- how to spot and counter the ever lurking danger of entitlement that can lead to complacency in how we manage our performance
- why disrupting ourselves to further our career, sometimes first requires us to take a step back or sideways
- that we should plan to fail as we try and disrupt ourselves
- how discovery is key to succeeding on a disruptive path
Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work is a quick read – just 128 pages. However, to really benefit from it we do suggest you take some reflection time after each of the 7 chapters to work out how this might apply to you.
Johnson helps us understand the theory behind this approach by explaining the difference between competitive risk and market risk and why market risk, though it may feel riskier, will yield a bigger reward if you succeed. In short: If you play where no one else plays, you are facing market risk (as you don’t know IF there is any demand) but if there is, then the whole market is yours for the taking.
Once you know your distinctive strength(s) and how to apply them to solve an unmet need as per the criteria in chapter 1, then you have got the beginnings of a potentially successful approach to disrupt yourself.
(This is definitely one of our favorite chapters in the book as it is very actionable. As we always read with a highlighter in our hand, this chapter ended up with a high density of highlights)
We fail to see the need for change and growth because
• we believe we know better because of our education or experience (intellectual entitlement);
• we believe we have earned it because of our efforts and sacrifices (emotional entitlement);
• we believe our team/company/etc understands our external context inside out. (cultural entitlement)
Whitney Johnson explains each of these mindsets and how we can protect ourselves from getting trapped by each of them. For example, to counter cultural entitlement, which prevents us from looking at our world outside our company’s/country’s/family’s/circle of friends’ culture, she suggests opening up our social networks. “The more closed your network,” Whitney Johnson explains, “the more you hear the same ideas over and again, reaffirming what you already believe, while the more open your network, the more exposed you are to new ideas.” To counter intellectual entitlement she suggests that we actively seek out dissenting voices and to counter emotional entitlement she advices us to practice gratitude.
In this chapter Whitney Johnson explores several examples of people who successfully navigated the hard choice to lose something, like money or status, to win something bigger and better. Particularly powerful in this chapter is the following quote from the essay “Shedding My Skin” by Rebecca Jackson:
“ Have you ever let go of something that simultaneously protects and strangles you; something that both defines you, but also suffocates your evolution? Just like a snake shedding its skin, you have to lose something critical to grow, leaving you vulnerable an exposed in the process.”
To read Rebecca Jackson’s full essay click here