SEISMIC – Building Disruptive Capabilities in Organisations


“Waves of volcanic energy that make impact”

In my last blog Building Disruptive Capabilities, I proposed that to capture the imagination of our employees that we had to invert the typical Maslow hierarchy and seek to reward those aligned to purpose, who brought their creative talents to work and whose passions could be ignited on a daily basis. To do this there has to be SEISMIC shift in the way we view our current practice of Management.

I don’t want to be one who harks back to a bygone era. Yet there is one period in my working life (over a decade ago) where ‘magic’ occurred. It is when we were encouraged to launch products within 90 days, build creative confidence across the global business, develop capability programs to share knowledge. The mantra was threefold:

  1. Accelerate the pace of strategic renewal (the multi beverage model)
  2. Make innovation everyone’s job, everyday (the formation of i-nova)
  3. Create an engaging environment where creativity can flourish (system of ideas)

These strategic intents were not all successful, but like Dennis DeNuto would say in “The Castle” – ‘there was a vibe’. I thought this was the cultural norm everywhere. Not only did it not last at Fosters (six MD’s in 7 years will see the end of that), I unfortunately have not seen it anywhere else. And I have been privileged to consult to some great companies. And I have not read about the ‘vibe’ at too many either.

Think about the great product breakthroughs over the last decade or two that have changed the way we live: the personal computer, the mobile phone, digital music, email, and online communities. Now try to think of a breakthrough in how we are ‘managed’ in the workplace that has had a similar impact. Not easy is it? And herein lies the problem.

Management practice is out of date. Like the movie rental business or fax machine, it’s a service or technology that has largely stopped evolving and that’s not good. Why? Because Management – the capacity to marshal resources, lay out plans, program work, and spur effort – is central to the accomplishment of human purpose. To build creative confidence. To ignite the passion from within. When it is less effective than it could be, or needs to be, we all pay a price. What ultimately constrains the performance of your organisation is not its operating model, nor its business model but the ability of management to disrupt. To make positive change. To make a SEISMIC shift.

My agenda of Corporate Disruption evokes:


  • The motivation to dare (purpose, creativity, passion)
  • The intent to decide (seismic change)
  • The ability to design (a disruption democracy)
  • The imagination to develop (leadership, skills, systems, strategy, structure, process, people, philosophy etc)
  • The urgency to do (embed disruptive capability programs – Marketing, Sales, Creativity, Innovation, Leadeship, Culture, Storytelling, Self)
  • The renewal of dreams (learnings from positive deviants)

As a business romantic, above all else, I have a dream. One not as visionary as MLK, yet one that I hope we have momentum with over the next decade. I dream of organisations that are capable of spontaneous renewal, where the drama of change is unaccompanied by the wrenching trauma of a turnaround. I dream of businesses where an electric current of innovation pulses through every activity, where the renegades always trump the reactionaries. I dream of companies that actually deserve the passions and creativity of the employees who work there, and naturally elicit the very best that people have to give.

Of course, these are more than dreams, they are imperatives. They are do or die challenges for any company that hopes to thrive in the tumultuous times ahead – and they can be surmounted only with inspired disruption.

So this is for those who can dare, design and do. Dreamers and developers. It’s for everyone who feels hog-tied by bureaucracy, who worries that the ‘system’ is stifling innovation, who secretly believes that the bottleneck is at the top of the bottle, who wonders why corporate life has to be so dispiriting, who thinks that employees are smart enough to manage themselves, who knows that “management” as currently practiced, is a drag on success – and wants to do something about it. If that’s you, then welcome.


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