Dancing in Dis-Equalibrium

by Janet Sernack

In the Executive Summary of the 2014 Front End of Innovation Conference, produced by the Institute for International Research, the author welcomes us to the report with this statement;

“Welcome to Business as unusual. Business as usual is done. Stick a fork in it.

We’ve entered the age of business as unusual.

The world’s largest hotelier may soon be Airbnb- the one without a single brick.

Detroit goes bankrupt; Google starts building driverless cars”.

Suggesting that these are not anomalies and that collectively, they signify a ‘new normal’ in which the unexpected has become an expectation. A ‘new normal’ found when equilibrium (the condition of a system in which all competing influences are balanced) gives way to dis-equilibrium (loss or lack of stability).

This creates the opportunity for a new hero; the leader as an innovative entrepreneur to emerge!

“It is the entrepreneur, and no other, who disrupts the monotonous equilibrium of the economy and who is the prime cause of economic development and increases societal wellness. Therefore innovation and development are disturbances in the Walrasian circular flow. However, this disruption of the formerly established equilibrium leads to both a highly unstable growth phase and a volatile market for competitive industries.”

The Disruptive Provocateur

To take advantage of this emerging ‘new normal’ managers and leaders have the opportunity to exploit these “disturbances” by becoming disruptive provocateurs.

A disruptive provocateur is someone who is willing to flow with the “disruption” of the “formerly established equilibrium”. They dance at the edge of the dis-equilibrium in “the highly unstable growth phase” of a “volatile market.” A disruptive provocateur is someone who is willing and able to;

–      Break the rules that exists within conforming, comfortable and compliant organizations; the old hangover of our mechanical and industrial approach to business structures and systems.

–      Disrupt and challenge the conventional reality that perpetuates in these organizations; to harness trends, leverage resources and move peoples thinking towards the possibilities available in our emerging technological and connected world to create new markets that meet unsatisfied needs.

The Disruptive Provocateur Skill Set

A disruptive provocateur is a manager or leader who safely, confidently, courageously and compassionately develops and practices a way of be-ing different, thinking and acting differently.

They have cultivated the observation skills and insight to sense and see a disruption as it emerges and use it to;

–      Surprise the market again & again with exciting unexpected solutions!

–      Produce an unconventional strategy that leaves competitors scrambling to catch up!

–      Turn consumer expectations upside down & takes an industry into its next generation!

–      Fuse analytical rigor with fluid intuitive processes (business & design)!

They manage the emotional reactions that arise from the innovative entrepreneurial roller coaster by knowing how to;

–      Adapt to, live and flow with the dissonance, disagreements and conflicts that exist in dis-equilibrium!

–      Think what no-one else is thinking and do what no-one else was doing!

–      Take conventions and turn them on their head!

–      Maximize differences, diversity and creative tension as openings and thresholds for innovative ideas and solutions!

Heeding the wake-up call!

The strength of the current levels of global dis-equilibrium have already been disruptive enough to create the new ‘business as unusual ‘environment that The Institute of International Research describes.

Whether it is at the macro (such as in the former Soviet Union) or micro level (in your own organization) the majority of disruptions act as ‘wake-up calls’.

This adds further to the dis-equilibrium that already occurs and then results in a reactive organizational response called Disconfirmation; meaning that people will feel that they, their team or their organization are under threat,  or perhaps ‘wrong’ in some way or that they are frozen in maintaining their status quo.

Dancing with disequilibrium

Disconfirmation, according to Professor Edgar Schein, from The Sloan School of Management is an essential ‘unfreezing process’ that causes serious discomfort and dis-equilibrium that act as triggers for change. However, as we all well know, some of the potential side effects of the discomfort of disruption include conflict and resistance which erupt naturally when people values get challenged and fears erupt.

Typically, people will react by;

–      Doing nothing; freezing.

–      Taking Flight or by Fighting; aggression or avoidance.

–      Looking to authority to solve it for them; being dependent and/or seeking approval.

Rather than allowing these states to embed, a disruptive provocateur sees them as opportunities for innovation; to maximize differences, diversity and creative tension, to use these as essential resources in getting to the real, as opposed to superficial, harmony.

They know how frame these uncomfortable and threatening states and orchestrate them when working from an integrated whole.

They set out to seek resolution rather than appeasement, or as something to be neutralized or eliminated and utilize the disruptions to transform the core issue or problem into an innovative solution that people connect to, value and cherish.

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  • How the Lean Start-up Accelerates Innovation Janet Sernack gained her consulting, education, facilitation, training and executive coaching skills, from 30 years experience in manufacturing, retailing and learning and development businesses to Australia’s and Israel’s’ top 100 companies. She resides in Israel where she founded a start-up, ImagineNation™ that teaches innovative leadership and start-up entrepreneurship via The Start-Up Game™.

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