Disruption. It’s easier than you think.

Tesla

Most people think of disruption as something that’s bigger than it actually is, like a revolution in a country. A revolution definitely counts as being disruptive, and it’s also something no one does alone. Unfortunately, by induction, most people would feel they can’t be disruptive, that only a group of people, or very powerful people can bring about change (the ultimate goal of being disruptive).

It’s not true. You don’t have to be Elon Musk to be disruptive. Anyone can be disruptive. I can be disruptive. You can be disruptive too.

You can start off small, by saying no for example. Especially if you’re not used to saying no, actually saying it for the first time can be very powerful. It will definitely throw people of balance, which is an important aspect of bringing about change. A sudden change in regular behavioural patterns actually rewires the brain. (Taking a different route to work has the same effect.)

Disruption means breaking the status quo, and in my opinion it’s mostly a cultural thing. You might always say ‘yes’ to your manager, simply because the corporate culture dictates you have to. You may not always want to say yes and have some very good reasons for that. But if the culture says you “have to”, saying ‘no’ is very hard. Still, believe it or not, it is actually easier than you might think because you’re just exchanging saying one word for another. You really don’t need a group of people, or be a very powerful individual, to say ‘no’. You just need a little bit of courage.

Being disruptive is a means to an end, not the actual goal. You may want to change the organisational culture; even this is probably not the end goal. You may want to make yourself and your co-workers happier in the workplace. Now that sounds like a great goal to me! You’ll probably need to change the corporate culture to achieve that, though, and may have to start behaving in a (slightly) disruptive manner to change anything. No disruption, no change.

Finding out how you can change your own behaviour starts by looking at your current behaviour. Are you always saying yes? Try saying no at some point. Are you mostly talking to people in your immediate vicinity? Just walk to another team, if need be in another building, and have a chat with someone there. (I find that lunch time is a good moment to find other people to talk to. You might even learn a thing or two about your company that you probably would not have picked up otherwise.) Do you feel the (perceived) distance between yourself and the CEO is too large? Try and schedule a meeting with her. She may say ‘no’ to your request, but there’s only one way to find out. She may be curious to find out what you have to say, and almost everyone can find half an hour in their schedules.

There are much more things you can do to shake things up a bit, perhaps even ruffle some feathers. Are you managing your user stories in Jira? Try and put up a physical scrum board. Do you want to encourage people to share positive thoughts? Put up a Kudo wall. You can put in as little or as much effort as you like, but you’ll definitely spark some conversations and make people aware of what they are doing. You may find people are willing to join you. You don’t have to be the CEO to be a leader.

So there you have it. All you really need is a little courage to implement any of these small changes. However, you may effectively be leading the changes that a company needs to improve. Hopefully, it will result in you and your colleagues working in a happier place. Or a more productive or creative one. A more whatever-it-is-you-want-to-improve-on one. It’s in your hands. Initiate the change. Be disruptive.