Aim to Misbehave

How many companies can create excitement about a new product like Apple does? Once again, with the advent of the iPad they are in the lead when it comes to creative disruption. Creative disruption is when a person creates something or solves a problem that transforms. Nintendo also did it with its Wii console. Did you know that one of the fastest growing markets for the Wii is nursing homes where residents can get exercise and be entertained at the same time? Wow, who knew?

Disruptive leadership is a concept that is rapidly gaining ground in the new millennia – leaders create problems that must be solved. The solving of the problem serves as the catalyst for the organization to create change, whether that change is a new product, new service, or just a new way of doing things. When an organization has to solve a problem, it can provoke the necessary motivation to make a huge leap in innovation.

It can be hard for a leader to create problems. It’s counterintuitive when you think that most of us are taught from an early age to either fix a problem quickly or find a way to get rid of it. A study on NPR a few months ago noted that in a classroom, kids with disruptive behavior have more influence than the kids who behaved. If you took out the behaving kids from the class, it made no difference to the learning environment, but if you took out the kids who were disruptive it made the class unstable in a negative way.

But we teach kids to behave and we do the same thing at work – teach people to behave by solving problems we want them to solve.

As a leader, who do you look for in the next generation of leadership? The person who behaves or the person who disrupts?

True disruptive leadership comes from learning continuously and managing chaos. While change can be chaotic and distressing to some, if an organization and its people do not evolve, that stagnation can be fatal. Apple realized it when Pat Scully kicked out Steve Jobs and they later had to bring Jobs back in resurrect the company.

Sometimes it’s better to be disruptive than to behave.

So, how to begin to think like a disruptive leader? There is a wonderful case study in Forbes magazine about P&G’s invention of Align, an over-the-counter probiotic supplement. Check it out here. In the article ,chief technology officer Bruce Brown offers the following words of wisdom for those wishing to become disruptive leaders. He says:

Be a coach, not a gatekeeper. Don’t just say yes or no – work along side your team to help them solve the problems the encounter.

Embrace uncertainty. There are innumerable opportunities for creative disruption. Disruptive opportunities are characterized by high levels of assumption and low levels of knowledge.

Learn to trust your judgment. Your gut is based on past experience and intuition. Making decisions based on only hard data might be a mistake.

Change your mind. Stop meetings midstream to get new people in the room to change the dynamics and the thinking.

Problems are opportunities to misbehave. Your mindset will determine how clearly you see what is in front of you.  Problem…or opportunity?



  1. Colleen Long says:

    Great article!! Managing misbehavior presents interesting HR challenges since some leaders aren’t as skilled at eliciting opinions from staff members. Thank you for creating awareness. Hopefully it results in a rebellious but construcive movement!!!

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