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What makes some businesses better at thriving in disruption?

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Written by Guest Blogger, Ian Hawkins, Editor at PEX Network

Process improvement and change go hand in hand. But disruption? Disruption is a word loaded with negative connotations. For everyone who embraces the idea of digital disruption there will be hundreds who dread it.

But dread is precisely the wrong response: digital disruption isn’t the future, it’s the present, and if you think the ice isn’t breaking up under your feet, it’s just because you’re standing on a deceptively large sheet of the stuff. Be warned, the thaw is here.

It’s an irony that we are much more happy with digital disruption in our personal lives than we are at work. Possibly because we understand the process of our daily lives much better. We all know it’s a pain to find a parking space and feed the right change into the meter, so we don’t mind an app that tells us where the spaces are, and gives us a frictionless platform for payment.

Knowledge of the process, then, gives us the courage not only to weather change but to embrace it with enthusiasm. As Ivan Seselj says in this article, ‘Teams that clearly understand a process can spot problems and improvements more easily.’ We clearly understand and can spot problems in our personal lives, but the processes that go on around us at work may be more of a mystery. Evolved over time, their complexity is part of their charm. When disruptive technology comes along, some of us panic.

Digital disruption is more seismic to an industry than an individual organisation tweaking their processes, but like a major earthquake, it has been waiting to happen for some time. We’ve long been able to generate data, and have only been waiting for computers to get up to speed in sorting the signal from the noise. It isn’t just that there is valuable information to be crunched out of the numbers we have, it’s that the processing has crossed a threshold of affordability. Data plus analysis can now deliver real value to businesses and offer a return on investment that is giving early adopters a sudden and massive advantage over their competitors. Digital disruption is not killing businesses; late adoption of technology is killing businesses.

The inertia is understandable, even if it’s undesirable. Jeff Cole puts it well: ‘Whenever you roll out a process change of any significance that impacts people – be it positively or negatively – they need time to absorb the change and become acclimated to the new way… Getting them involved early on in the design allows them to become acclimated much faster once the rollout period hits.’

Disruption favours the agile, because only the truly agile are able to take advantage of the new opportunities opened up by disruption. Start ups have less fear because they have less to lose, but the big beasts should take a leaf out of their younger competitors’ playbook.

Going forward, we will be getting better data, and more intelligent analysis. We can’t change (or necessarily predict) what that will mean for our businesses, but as new possibilities unfold, we can certainly choose our response.

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