Why are disruptive thinkers so desirable now? - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

Why are disruptive thinkers so desirable now?

Over the past 100 years or more, disruptive people have generally had a bad reputation. In a world that preferred compliance to complexity, disruptive people were seen to be a problem.

But today, having the right kind of disruptive people on your team may be the best thing that could happen to you.

Remember the bad name that disruptive children got in school? They were branded as trouble makers by teachers trying very hard to teach the majority of pupils in their classes while trying to deal with that one disruptive child who was preventing them from doing their job.

Few teachers understood one of the reasons that some disruptive children behaved as they did. Naturally, some of those disruptive children were trouble makers who did not want to learn, but a fair proportion of disruptive children were highly intelligent children who quickly understood the concept the teacher was trying to explain to the class and, because they caught it first time round, they quickly grew bored while they had to sit through another and another explanation of something they already understood.

So what did they do? They looked around and tried to amuse themselves by catching the attention of someone else in the class and engaging in some form of activity to relieve their boredom. Of course, the well-meaning teacher saw them as trying to disrupt the class and branded them as naughty or troublesome.

What a pity that the teacher didn’t see them for what they were – bright children who needed to be challenged by something more than what they were currently being offered.

The tragedy is that many of those bright kids end up somewhere in companies which also don’t recognise their intelligence and see them as disruptive.

Well, I’ve got news for you … If you have disruptive people in your workplace, they might be just the people who could save your company from being overwhelmed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Disruption is occurring in just about every sector of industry. It’s not a question of if but of when it’s going to happen. And the worst way to deal with disruption in your sector is to ignore or attempt to avoid in the hope that it won’t affect you. That’s a luxury you can’t afford.

One of the ways that people try to avoid disruption is to do nothing in the hope that it won’t really happen. The fact is, the best way to deal with disruption is to disrupt yourself before someone else disrupts you.

Who should be initiating your disruption? The people who are compliant and obedient? Not on your life. If you need disruption, you need your disruptive thinkers to lead the way. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your company’s leaders have got disruption in your sector all sown up. Chances are they’re trying to preserve the status quo so are really not focused on developing strategies to create voluntary disruption.

You therefore have to look elsewhere in your organisation for the right people to lead your disruptive strategy. Choose them wisely and choose them bravely too.

Naturally, you’re not going to let them go off like loose cannons. You’re going to identify them and start conversations with them to determine just how they can be uiltised. Once you’ve found their particular strengths, use them for what they’re good at.

By giving your disruptive thinkers the opportunity to set the company on a new trajectory, you will be giving them an opportunity to play a role that comes to them naturally. In addition, there’s a spin off – you inevitably get them to engage with the company and so increase their productivity as well as increase your chances of retaining them.

Of course, the biggest benefit is that they put the company on a new trajectory that enables it to move into a sustainable and successful future.

So, take a look around your company to identify people who have typically been regarded as disruptive and then put them to work in a way that will benefit the company!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

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