Most companies I am asked into are really struggling with the same thing - how to create situations that generate the kind of ideas, thinking and actions that bring about radical change as they face unprecedented pressures and disruption to their businesses.
The hardest initial challenge I usually have is getting them to come to terms with the fact that the kind of change they are after is by implication really uncomfortable. It might seem obvious but many people either don't want to see or accept that disruption is by definition disruptive.
What is more the kind of leaders they need to lead it are often the last kind of people they'd choose because like disruption itself, disruptive leaders are disruptive.
The recent election of the new leader of the Labour party in the UK is a great case in point.
The UK media doesn’t quite know how to respond to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as opposition leader. On the one hand he is an outspoken hard left politician whose views seem totally out of step with what opinion poles say are fashionable. On the other hand he has been swept in on an incredible wave of enthusiasm not seen in British politics since Tony Blair took power - starting just a few weeks ago as a 200-1 no-hoper he took 59% of the first round vote, meaning a second round wasn’t needed (this is 2% better than Blair). He’s also been the catalyst for a massive surge in membership of the party, particularly from young people. He is everything an ailing organisation like the Labour Party could want for – except its establishment really don’t like his ideas.
The conversation in the mainstream media is already moving to ‘How long will he last?’ but that actually totally misses the point. It’s a reasonable question in a conventional situation, but this is not a conventional situation. Longevity of tenure will not be a measure of his impact. Corbyn’s victory is an example of disruptive forces at play and therefore needs a very different lens. Like early disruptive technologies, he himself is not the solution – disruption begats disruption, as the likes of Nokia, Blackberry and then Apple showed in the mobile phone wars of the early 21st century.
Corbyn is not a steady leader for normal times. He is a disruptive leader for extraordinary times. He has already rocked the establishment to the foundations, generating allsorts of activity. In the same way that the early punk bands made a terrible din and quickly gave way to New Wave, so Corbyn will do the same. He may not last long, but neither did The Sex Pistols – but look at what they unleashed (and how they are remembered)? Radical ideas, lead to brilliant ideas, often very different to the ones that generated them. Often the best new products and businesses are born out of initially naive or seemingly cazy thinking. I will leave you to join the dots but without the Sex Pistols there'd be no U2, AC/DC, Madonna or Lady Gaga.
We need disruptive leadership like never before. Business people often trot out the ‘form, storm, norm, perform’ mantra, but are so often incapable of navigating through the ‘storm’ phase, because of an innate desire to retain control. New ideas though thrive on disorder.
Jeremy Corbyn may not last long as leader. But then neither did the Apple II, Palm Pilot, or Blackberry. A far more interesting question is what will his passion, energy and radical ideas unleash, not just in his supporters and natural allies, but in a generation who have now been woken up to the idea that change is possible?
SLP Disruption Programs - generating brilliant ideas, businesses and products that people thought weren't possible.
Corbyn is not a steady leader for normal times. He is a disruptive leader for extraordinary times. He has already rocked the establishment to the foundations, generating allsorts of activity. In the same way that the early punk bands made a terrible din and quickly gave way to New Wave, so Corbyn will do the same.