The Key to Career Growth: Disruption

After a year of unexpected changes, planned disruption will create workplace stability and growth

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Workplace disruption
Workplace disruption

Disruption fatigue is real. 2020 brought about many shifts that completely upended how we accomplish work. COVID’s shock to our many different systems, from health care to corporate norms, might make people think that the best thing about the coming year would be a lack of change. But, nothing could be further from the truth, especially when it comes to career development. Disruption of old pathways to progress has always fueled and will continue to drive lifelong learning and career development. 

For example, Google recently announced the launch of a new certificate program that takes six months to complete and will be considered equivalent to a four-year degree when Google examines candidates for hire. These courses will educate people on Product Management, UX Design, and Data Analysis in a fraction of the time and cost of an undergraduate degree. In the coming years, we will likely see more organizations disrupting higher education and creating alternative paths to education. 

While studying systems dynamics, a term that emerged frequently was “disruption,” which is a change to the way the world functions. Take Google’s new initiative as an example: the world, as we know it today, encourages young adults to pursue four to seven years of advanced education and take on enormous debt to be hired at a job, often in an entry-level position. Google’s proposal to bypass the time and money it takes to start a stable career trajectory is disruptive to the way we think about education and the educational system itself.

There are so many other examples of disruption: Facebook, iPhones, Tesla, and no, it’s not a coincidence that my examples are all technology. Most disruption will occur because of technology; however, the principle of disruption is critical to know as a people leader too.

Jay Samit, author of “Disrupt You!” shares the following insights on disruption:

  • “True disruption alters a market or system forever.”
  • “Disruption creates opportunity.”
  • “Success as a disruptor is about capturing the value that is released through disruption. Every business will be disrupted sooner or later by technology.”
  • “In today’s business world, if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind.”
  • “Disruption isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you respond to what happens to you.”

The university system’s weaknesses include how long it takes to earn a degree and how expensive it is. Some would look at the design and say, “Well, that’s what it is, there’s no ability to change it.” Google saw those vulnerabilities and asked, “Why is a four-year degree necessary? What if it wasn’t needed to work as a Designer?”

Leaders and supervisors who stick to the “old” ways of management (in office work, pen and paper meetings, micromanagement, etc.) will be disrupted by companies who support things like employee engagement, work/life balance and career development. You know you’ll have been disrupted when you have managers fighting against new, innovative processes while your employees turn over at a high rate, and your profits go down due to disengagement. 

Many companies are fighting against new ways of remote working because working in the office is how “it has always been done.” Despite the continued surge of COVID-19 and the added stress of school starting, many of my clients are back in the office as their companies rolled back work from home permissions. A client said it best just the other day: “I’m not sure why I need to be at work so I can sit in my office alone and be on Zoom all day. I could have done this from home.” If you have leaders and managers who are resistant to or scared of change, your organization will be disrupted by another company that embraces new supervision methods.

COVID-19 was a major disruptor. Forcing companies to work from home showed how an office isn’t necessary for employees to perform at a high level and for companies to make money. If, as a leader, you don’t embrace this new world, then you’re moving backward, and your team and ultimately your organization will suffer.

If you’re interested in healthy workplace disruption to drive career growth for every member of your team, here are some ways to start:

  • Expose What’s Broken: Disruption is useful because it introduces alternatives to a system’s current weaknesses and vulnerabilities. So, expose your weaknesses by running an engagement survey and get feedback. Examples of weaknesses to keep an eye out for are lacking leadership, misunderstanding of job roles, misalignment of goals and priorities, and disconnected feelings.
  • Visualize the Ideal: Think about the ideal state and then work out how to get to it. Once you know your weaknesses, don’t start planning the steps to fix it first. Instead, start by picturing the ideal state you want to reach. For example, an ideal state may be that every employee knows exactly how their job contributes to its success. From there, you may decide to promote goal setting and alignment, or you may choose instead to enable communication between managers and employees. There are many roads to one destination, don’t get caught up in which route to take; stay focused on the destination.
  • Use Your Toolbox: Lean into technology. We live in a technological world. Even people management is becoming digital! I’ve heard time and time again how companies purchase technology to be more efficient, only for leadership to ignore it because they prefer pen and paper. Often, leadership doesn’t want to admit that they don’t know how to use a particular technology and avoid it. It’s time to move forward and embrace technology. Take the time to learn new ways of operating so that you can keep your team from being disrupted by someone else.

C Space has experienced the benefits of planned workplace disruption firsthand. “At C Space, we believe in partnership between managers, their teams, and the HR team, who provide coaching and support. With Bridge, we hope that we will enable our Reporting Managers and their direct reports to have more frequent and meaningful conversations around performance, learning, and how it will impact their careers. We know that technology is only part of the solution. It’s also about complementing our efforts with additional training and support for our Reporting Managers so they are better prepared to have those effective conversations.”

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