Five disruptive lessons in HR


Disruption has become the new buzzword hasn’t it?  We hear it everywhere.  But what does it really mean? 

According to our god of all answers, Google, disruption is disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity or process.

I think it is pretty fair to use Google’s definition considering they really are true disruptors. According to the futurist Chris Riddell I won’t ever have to go through the painful process of teaching my sons to drive as they will never need to learn because of self-driving vehicles being pioneered by Google.

I’ve heard disruption described by Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, as “breaking something apart and rebuilding something better”.

So why is it is so important, why do we keep talking about disruption? The world is changing at a rapid pace, and if we don’t keep up we will be left behind. In business the competition is growing and our ability to look at our current business, break it and rebuild, is a skill we not only need to develop and get comfortable with, we need to master it. 

I’m not a futurist, I’m a small business owner who is working hard doing my thing, providing the full suite of HR services to SME clients across Australia.

So what is my credibility to talk about disruption?  I don’t think you have to be Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg to be considered a disruptor, we all have the ability to disrupt, in fact, we must disrupt!

I’d like to share five of the key lessons I’ve learnt while disrupting the way businesses utilise HR:

1. Invest in yourself: Say yes to everything

Personal development is no longer a smart thing to do, it’s essential. When I had the opportunity to go to Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island earlier this year with 20 other Australian entrepreneurs and 9 internationally renowned speakers, I said yes. There was no option, how could I turn down such a unique learning experience? The lessons learnt were priceless, but one sticks with me. Sir Richard Branson sat in most workshops and took notes. The best disruptors never stop investing in themselves – they teach others. A candle loses nothing from lighting another candle.

2. Without a purpose, you have nothing

What is your purpose? Why does your business exist? What business are you really in? What would be lost if your business didn’t exist? Kodak had a brilliant purpose, their purpose was to “preserve people’s memories”. It was perfect, they had a powerful purpose, something to connect with. But they lost touch with their purpose and got carried away with transactional film sales. A Kodak employee invented the first digital camera in the 70’s and was told to hide it away, as it would cannibalise their film business.

The rest is history, they were not quick enough to capitalise on the digital age. If the executives stayed connected to their purpose they would have realised they had an opportunity to preserve people’s memories for decades to come. Instead they ended up filing for bankruptcy while others disrupted the industry.


3. Continual improvement is a state of mind

Often businesses in the best position to disrupt don’t. Blockbuster, Blackberry, Saab, MySpace and Darrell Lea were all in positions to disrupt, but didn’t. Blackberry went from 42% of the mobile device market to 0.8% in four short years because they became complacent. You need to keep breaking and rebuilding your service offerings or products, even when you are successful.


4. Get social


There are more mobile phones in Australia than people, the connection economy is here and here to stay. How can your business capitalise on the social media communicating phenomenon? If you are not thinking about this now you are a long way behind. My clients don’t use social? It wastes time? There’s no use for it in my industry? These are not excuses, disrupt your thinking. Information is in real-time now, instant and accessible and if you are not nimble enough others will be.

5. Disruptive leadership

Leaders must encourage disruption, if people don’t believe the messenger they will not believe the message. If you seek disruption and reinvention to stay at the top of your game, then reward staff when they think outside the box. At wattsnext we have annual innovation awards and everyone participates from the receptionist to the executive team.  How many meetings and procedures occur in your daily life because it is the way you have always done it, disrupt your thinking.

My message is to be brave.  Play a bigger game.  Break and rebuild what you currently think is possible and create a bigger possibility, a bigger vision!

Disrupt before being left behind forces you too!

Sue-Ellen Watts is the founder and director of wattsnext, specialists in HR, recruitment, compliance and people performance.

Sue-Ellen Watts is the founder and director of wattsnext, specialists in HR, recruitment, compliance and people performance.

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