Is disruption a dirty word?

by Roger Longden | Oct 29, 2020

time icon 5 mins

Disruption is the disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process. But what happens if we flip the rhetoric and give disruption a positive platform?

Disruption is everywhere, and whilst we can roll with most punches, to really succeed, we need to talk about restructuring with a specific focus on becoming more agile and responsive to the world around us. Really harnessing the power of disruption as a driving force towards positive change and growth. 

Let’s face it 2020 has provided levels of disruption that were previously unheard of in modern times. Whilst Covid-19 may not be an annual thing (here’s hoping) we need to be prepared for the fact that we might never return to the status quo or norm. In June, Sky News reported that only 6% of Britons want life to return to pre-pandemic times across a range of issues including the economy and working arrangements. This thirst for change is something to not only be seized on, but also celebrated.  

Change done with and not to you

We are sure you have heard it from multiple different sources, but what we really need to do is take the learnings from 2020 and create a journey which you can take your colleagues on. It is not about ‘what we had to do’ but more about ‘the change we want to do’. What is the purpose and the end goal you want to achieve? What is the strategy, outcomes, and message for your colleagues? Now is the perfect opportunity to think about what you will bring back and what you will actively look to change. Just a note of caution on this – be aware of the cultural implications and how your team are feeling. People may be feeling inwardly very unsettled by what’s happened and therefore whilst they say they don’t want things to go back to how they were before, the subconscious drive to feel safe by getting back to old ways of doing things will be very powerful and could sabotage attempts to ‘do different’.

Simon Norie, Empathy Creation Specialist at Custerian works with human behaviour daily. “There is something about the human behavioural trait to seek to return to the status quo as it’s based on the powerful prehistoric drive that doing what we always do keeps us safe (despite the evidence it does not). Set this against the scale and more importantly duration of the Covid-19 business impact and you create a really interesting opportunity to do change that impacts at a cultural level by reinforcing positive different behaviours.”

We’re not saying that the impact of Covid-19 has been positive, but we are saying that there are fundamental learnings and an opportunity to realign and focus on becoming more agile, so ultimately your business will be in a better position to roll with these punches in the future. 

Falling head-first into a work-life balance headache

Microsoft realised just this. “As we scrambled to set up home offices, situate newly home-schooled kids, juggle customer calls and cat antics, and in many ways rethink how to do our jobs. We realised this was a rare real-time opportunity to learn something about work itself. We wanted to study how flexible and adaptable it might or might not be, how collaboration and networks morph in remote settings, what agility looks like in different spaces. Maybe most important, we wanted to know how to nurture and improve employee well-being during times of crisis.” 

And so, for Microsoft, a research study was born. The study would start from a place of deep empathy for their colleagues and a curiosity about their capacity to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances that the new Covid-19 world presents. The burning questions that Microsoft wanted answers to were:

  • How will employees integrate — and separate — work and home life under the same roof?
  • Will we be able to maintain our relationships and networks without our typical face-to-face connections?
  • Will we collaborate differently to get our work done?
  • How will managers support and engage fully remote teams?

Microsoft found that “When driven by employees, entrenched norms can change quickly” showing a level of agility and responsiveness to the current business needs and environment. Offering evidence to the benefits of taking your employees on the journey, rather than making them bystanders looking from the outside in. 

The team boom 

Something that Microsoft found that resonates deeply with There Be Giants Founder Roger Longden is the rise in team catch ups. With statistics showing that individual meetings and calls have dropped in frequency and team catch ups or check-ins are now providing real value. Both in terms of checking in on work progress but also understanding the situations that your team members are currently operating under. This level of empathy allows the team to share work priorities whilst maintaining a focus on moving forward – providing change that impacts positively across your team. 

So, whilst we may hear ourselves saying we want to return to normal, have you considered the  positive changes that are possible? Understand your teams and the situations they face and use this information to build a real cultural change across your organisation. 

Something that Roger and Simon see for the future is the formation and use of more collaborative networks, pulling specialists in from SME consulting firms when and where needed. Not only providing a more collaborative space for innovation, but also a greater level of specialism and bang for your buck. 

Are you ready for new possibilities? 

Ultimately you may be feeling nostalgic about your desk and the way of working you left behind in pre-covid-19, but we wonder, if you are really open (or even aware) to the possibilities in how, where, and the way you work? 

Agility for businesses can often cause a sense of disruption and unease, especially as employees see an agile way of working as a change that they may not feel comfortable with. So, how do you keep alignment even in a disrupted, agile workplace? Enter OKRs

OKRs provide a real focus on growth and innovation goals for the business. So, whilst the world around your business may be falling apart, OKRs can offer that real sense of clarity and focus to keep your teams aligned behind the core objectives for the business. 

As Simon discusses, we may never have an opportunity forced on us quite like the one we are currently living through. Do you really want to return to the ‘normal’ or is it time to think about your ways of working, your offering and approach and assess whether returning to the status quo is really all it is cracked up to be? 



Simon Norie, Empathy Creation Specialist @ Custerian: At Custerian we take a pragmatic practitioner led approach to change. We like to help you get stuff done, by leveraging your most useful asset – your People.

Our belief is that most people come to work to do a good job, which is great because in this increasingly virtualised world, it’s people – more precisely Colleagues – who are increasingly going to make the difference between being a great brand, and an also ran.

We identify/clarity your brand proposition (your emotional point of difference & the financial return you are looking for) and then make it easy for your customers to consume it. Creating a seamless alignment between your brand and its customers, through your colleagues, by making it easy and rewarding for them to deliver the bits of the brand the customers wants most.

Roger Longden, Founder @ There Be Giants: I have always had a strong focus on performance, and I spotted the need for businesses to hugely improve how they built their strategy/plans.

I recognised that OKRs were the answer and have since built There Be Giants into what it is today – a highly committed team of OKR professionals who are passionate about helping businesses grow.


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