A Surprising Secret to Turning COVID-19 into a Disruptive Innovation Catalyst

Hailed as the most influential business idea of the 21st century, Disruptive Innovation can create new market opportunities for you and eventually displace your market-leading competitors.  It has, in so many ways, become the Holy Grail for many companies and almost mandatory to survive in today’s economy. 

If you’re like most people, you likely wouldn’t consider the coronavirus a positive catalyst in any way related to business, let alone as a catalyst of Disruptive Innovation.  After all, innovation can’t thrive in a fear-mongering environment, and it seems that COVID-19 has certainly promoted fear.  You only need to watch the stock market’s response to it to be sure of that! 

You likely would agree that COVID-19 is most definitely a disruptor of business – but, could it also bring about meaningful innovation for you and your business?  And, if the answer to that question is yes, then how would you go about it?

The answer to both of these questions is found in a clue offered by innovation expert, Soren Kaplan, who reminds us that the first strategy needed to leap into Disruptive Innovation is to listen to yourself, not the market.  He reinforces a truth taught by Stephen Covey, who reminded us that the key to positively influencing any situation begins with Self-Leadership and proactivity.  When you reactively follow the crowd’s way of thinking, it often means you ignore your own instincts and inner wisdom.

Crowdsourcing information is a huge barrier to Disruptive Innovation – and the reactivity it causes is the first barrier that must be broken through to create new ways of thinking.  If you are a leader who has been trained to watch data patterns, and listen to the market, you may avoid wading through the uncertainty of your own unvalidated ideas and listening to your own inside voice.  Interestingly, this is where Disruptive Innovation is usually born! 

This is how COVID-19, in a very strange way, might be a catalyst to help you as a leader flip from reacting to the market, to Disruptive Innovation of the market. 

You see, every day, by its very nature, the coronavirus is producing a remarkable experiential learning laboratory.  It is inviting you to build an entirely new muscle around navigating unexpected events, inevitable failures, and a fundamental lack of control.  Ironically, these three things are all inherent to the process of creating Disruptive Innovation, and those who have no ability to navigate them will fail the innovation test even before it starts. 

If you are like most leaders, you have not been formally trained to deal with these realities.  You’ve most likely come through the leadership ranks because of your ability to create predictability and control the factors that shape your performance.  Yet, Disruptive Innovation will never spring from predictability and control!

In the end, the first Disruptive Innovation that needs to happen is to your own leadership mindsets and patterns.  Innovation cannot happen “out there” (in your business) if innovation has not first happened “in here” (inside you), and in your own mind and heart.  After all, it is not what happens to you that causes you to feel or act in certain ways or create outcomes you dislike. It is how you SEE that determines how you FEEL, what you DO, and ultimately what you GET.  This includes the kind of Disruptive Innovation that puts you in the forefront as a market leader

The real question, then, is: Will you use what’s happening today to disrupt your own reactive leadership patterns (starting with listening to yourself)?  If the answer is yes, what’s keeping you from starting today?

This article has been written by DeAnna Murphy – the founder and CEO of People Acuity and principal author of Shift Up! Strengths Strategies for Optimal Living and Choose to See You – in collaboration with People Acuity co-thought leaders, Lisa C. Gregory and Steve Jeffs. It includes information from their soon-to-be released book on Interdependent Leadership.  DeAnna is a Top 100 Global Coaching Leader who has provided keynotes and leadership development experiences in 32 countries.  Learn more about Interdependent Leadership and download the new Interdependent Leadership eBook – at www.peopleacuity.com.