Disruptive Thinking

Why organizations need alternative ways of thinking which meet the challenges of the future. 7 hypotheses.

A guest commentry by Bernhard von Mutius

1) I am currently observing great uncertainty and growing contradictions within many organizations. Everyone is talking about the digital transformation, many people speak of disruptive innovations. Outwardly, everything appears fine. But rumblings are going on below the surface. Pressure, exhaustion, fears and lots of questions: What does it actually mean? – And what does it mean for us? Where’s this journey taking us? Are we simply playing catch-up? Are we still keeping up? Are we part of it?

2) While the word “disruption” has been on many managers’ lips for some time now, it is used in many different ways. Sometimes seriously, sometimes less so – pumped up with marketing promises. Sometimes narrowly interpreted, sometimes more broadly. And that’s precisely why we need clarification as to exactly what it could mean. A reflection on disruption. And at the same time, practical support for management and organizations on how to handle disruptive change better, more realistically and in a more responsible way. That’s what I understand by disruptive thinking.

3) Instead of avoiding the possible negative, destructive aspects of the digital transformation (and the associated fears held by many people), disruptive thinking contemplates them. Broaching them is the only way to overcome them and give full rein to the positive aspects. This is particularly relevant for leadership, especially HR leadership. Disruptive thinking is preventive, creative disruption – designed to avert harmful destruction and promote new, creative trust within the organization.

4) To start with, disruptive thinking means being able to think in terms of upheavals, fractures, non-linear developments. And not believing it will all be over soon. No, it will not all be over soon. Because the current transformation is not simply a technological, digital one. It is also a social and cultural transformation and is altering our attitudes and behavior to an immeasurable degree. It is a veritable revolution. I call it the “creative revolution”.

5) Anyone who mentions the digital transformation anywhere today will meet with agreement. Everyone will nod and act as if they know exactly what is going to happen in the future – they just have to use the right technologies and business models. Creative revolution says: We have no idea what is going to happen in 5 or 10 years. Digital technologies are only in their infancy and are only a condition for the possibility. To enable them to develop, we need human creativity, creative powers on an as-yet unprecedented scale. And we need it everywhere – in the environment, for sustainability, in education, training, companies, politics.

6) Disruptive thinking is the art and discipline for this revolution. It is the art and discipline of dealing with profound divisions and contradictions in a sovereign, creative and productive way.

Disruptive thinking is lateral thinking without railings.

It accepts not-knowing within knowledge.

It is experimental.

It is non-linear.

It understands something of the dilemma facing innovators.

It relies on networked, agile teams and knows about the inertia of the old organizational structure.

It is creative yet with a sense of responsibility.

7) Disruptive thinking can be learned and professionalized. In the same way that we can learn systematic thinking and design thinking, whose good ideas form the basis for disruptive thinking.

It follows three pragmatic imperatives:

Firstly: Be surprisingly simple!

Secondly: Break with routines!

Thirdly: Empower the people!

image001Bernhard von Mutius is a future thinker, a leadership coach, senior advisor and member of the teaching team at HPI School of Design Thinking. www.vonmutius.de. He is a pioneer of disruptive thinking in German-speaking countries. And he was one of the first people to analyze the essential features of the digital transformation: https://arbeitmorgen.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/wie-wir-heute-denken-entscheidet-darueber-wie-wir-morgen-arbeiten-und-leben-werden-teil-1/

His latest book is scheduled for publication in fall 2017: Disruptive Thinking. Thinking to meet the challenges of the future.


 – 1. July 2016

Photo Credit: alphaspirit via fotolia

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