What’s Next? The True North leader’s guide into Future-Think and Disruption Insurance.


Crystal balls. Old Testament prophets. Tea leaves. Late night pizza-induced dreams.

What’s your favorite way to figure out the future and what it holds for you?

· What might have happened had BLOCKBUSTER actually bought Netflix, rather than be being “busted” by them?

· Or had Polaroid realized that “digital” was a real thing? Or for that matter, Kodak?

· Or personal computers overwhelming the mainframe world?

· And, really? Online shopping closing brick and mortar malls around the country.

You get the point. The future for many established churches, companies, universities is far too often unknown to us, and far, far too often, we’re happy to stay blissfully ignorant. Why? Who wouldn’t want to sneak a peek around time’s corner to glimpse at what’s coming our way? I often wish I could.

Let’s look at the power of disruption and how more prescient leaders might have avoided the BLOCKBUSTER Bust.

Disruptive Innovation is a concept developed in the mid-90s by Clayton Christensen (who died last year) to describe a process by which a new product or service begins simply and at the bottom of a market, but then inexorably and relentlessly moves upward and eventually displaces more established competitors. A smaller company with fewer resources (read: biblical teen David) successfully challenges established, much larger incumbents (read: Goliath). Disruption is not creative innovation. Disruption is not effective competition. And Disruption is not the dreaded Black Swan events of life.

Disruption typically dislodges a market leader who fell victim to their own success. Who became arrogant in their position, never believing they could be displaced. Who, by virtue of their success became bloated, self-satisfied and slow-moving. And perhaps the worst sin of all: were arrogant. Blind to the surrounding competitive environment.

I once worked for a university that, itself, had been a disruptor of sorts. But in the intervening years had become massive and slower than molasses to stay competitive. And arrogant? Oh yes. In abundance. Uninterested in paying attention to a growing number of competitors who figured out the “secret sauce” and thus began catching up. Ever so slowly. At such a sluggish rate, in fact, that they appeared to pose no threat.

Let’s explore two important and related leadership scenarios: leading from a position of being threatened and disrupted.. and leading from the position of becoming a disruptor.

The barbarians are at the gates. What do we do?

If it’s not too late, Disrupt yourself!

Meaning, reassess who you are and what you’re about. This is an exercise that every enterprise should undertake routinely. But since that doesn’t often happen, perhaps now is the opportune (read: absolutely necessary) time? Begin by addressing these types of questions with your teams:

· Who is our target market? Who do we serve? Why?

· What service do we provide? What solutions do we generate for our customers?

· What are our distinctives? What makes us different or unique?

· What are our values? Have we drifted away from our True North?

The leader’s role in these discussions is to sift through the responses to identify key themes and then lead toward consensus on a renewed path toward your goals.

Risk-taking has become a scarce commodity, thanks to Covid and all the insanity surrounding it. Yet, if you are ripe for disruption — especially due to the pandemic’s effects — no time is better than NOW to venture into the risky future.

Reconvene your team(s) to peek around time’s corner. See what insights you might find there with these types of questions:

· What is the most obvious thing we can repair?

· What is the most obvious thing we can now achieve?

· What might be the easiest thing we can achieve?

· What might be the boldest thing we can strive for?

Set new goals based on your collective fantasy-thinking. What might God do for you…with you should you engage your Faith Quotient (Hebrews 11:1) and trust Him?

Final thoughts: once you stabilize your organization, don’t let this happen again! Try on these suggestions for never getting disrupted in the future:

· Get paranoid. No, not the extreme version. The healthy version. Meaning: constantly be surveying the competitive landscape for rising disruptors.

· Build an internal disruption unit. Charge these independent thinkers to explore ways to disrupt your own organization. What you do. How you do it and why. Internal “spies” can become your most valuable asset. Free them to explore. Listen authentically to their reports. And trust your God-infused thinking to analyze and strategize accordingly.

· Stay vigilant and aware. And trust God to guide you. He’s already promised.

Hope those are helpful suggestions if you find yourself and your organization wounded and exhausted from the pandemic wars, or worse, you realize you’re ripe for disruption.

We’ve realized things are messed up in our world We want to innovate. To disrupt. How do we do that? And should we?

If you are leading an enterprise eager to create newness, you’ve already recognized a flaw in the competitive environment and you’ve been working to fill the gap. Your propensity for strategic change has been motivated — at least in part — to provide a higher quality product or experience for your constituencies. You know you can do it better than the incumbents.

Your mindset already fosters the Challenge the Process leadership practice discussed in this space many times before. You learned how to humbly begin at the beginning: diagnosing what is wrong with your industry or ministry. You’re happy and comfortable starting from scratch. You are prescient enough to identify the concerns of customers and stakeholders. You feel their pain and your greatest desire is to find the best possible solutions. You’re also adept at innovative thinking, especially the effective deployment of new technologies. Creativity and adaptability are common arrows in your quiver.

Disruption isn’t just doing something differently. It’s about being a game changer.

If you’ve truly embraced the role of disruptor, here are a few tips to guide your pathway:

· Train your existing staff to be innovators

o Look. Most creativity and innovation we had as children were systematically exorcised from us during the primary years of schooling. Read Gordon MacKenzie’s brilliant little book Orbiting the Giant Hairball.

o But innovative thinking, skills and abilities can be cultivated.

· Reframe your corporate culture

o Give your employees freedom to soar with creative thinking. Do like Google. Give your teams free time to explore and experiment. Might be the best personnel investment you ever make.

· All new hires must be disruptors

o As you add to your team, identify and intentionally hire like-minded employees.

OK. Now let’s pull back from our discussion on disruption for a God Moment — or two.

Is disruption a Godly thing?

Well, Jesus was an active disruptor. He upended the social and religious norms of his day. He trained his followers by modeling they way. They saw him:

· Break social norms regarding women and children.

· He disrupted the religious status quo. He not only challenged the beliefs vs. behavior hypocrisies of the religious elite, he called them out in no uncertain terms.

· Jesus disrupted team-building norms. He didn’t bring religious experts onto his team. He found stinky fishermen and other outcast rookies.

· His disruptive teachings created new models of social and religious practice. Read Matthew 5–7 for a refresher.

· Knowing the results awaiting his disruptive teachings, he pursued them with intense commitment all the way to his death.

Does God initiate disruption for his purposes?

· Disruption stories are found throughout the Bible. Re-read the narratives of people like:

o Noah

o Abraham

o Moses

o David

· Each of these learned to reframe their previously held notions of who God was and how he operated, and accept the newly disruptive ways he longed to lead them and use them. They each had to accept God’s Disruptive Challenge for their life.

Disruptor or disrupted? Perhaps the time has come to embrace the new God intends for your life and work. Disruption may be God’s personal invitation to see him in a new light. To re-engage our senses and see him in our circumstances.

Might he be using disruption to wake us up to a new vision of

Thy Kingdom Come?

Norm Mintle