If you want to get a better idea of how to create a culture that embraces disruption and then pursue such ambitious programs, “The Disruption Mindset” by Charlene Li is a terrific place to start.
Charlene joined Serial Marketers last week to answer some questions and field questions from the community. If you want to see all of the threads, visit the #bookclub channel in Slack (or request to join if you’re not already in there). A few excerpts are below, lightly edited for clarity.
Charlene, please introduce yourself.
I’m Charlene Li, the bestselling author of six books, a transformational speaker, and entrepreneur (the founder of Altimeter). I’ve been an analyst for 20+ years (!) and am passionate about helping leaders and organizations thrive with disruption.
Why did you decide to write this book?
Someone asked me how exactly one thrives with disruption, and I didn’t have a satisfactory answer. So I got curious, did a lot of research, started speaking, and ended up with a book. We have so many examples of how NOT to be disruptive (Blockbuster, Kodak, et al) but where were the examples of how to do it right? Hence the research and the book.
I also believe there are a lot of problems that need to be solved in the world. And that we’re not going to get there incrementally. So I wanted to inspire leaders to be more disruptive and exponential in their approach to creating growth and change.
I excluded some types of disruptive organizations, namely founder-led and typically tech companies. I then looked for organizations that drove some kind of exponential growth, had a significant pivot that resulted in a significant change/impact. Disruptive transformation means driving exponential change and growth. And it’s typically really disruptive and painful!
You just mentioned above you sought organizations that “had a significant pivot that resulted in a significant change/impact.” Were those organizations typically playing offense or defense?
For the most part, they were playing offensive, even if they were at the bottom of the pack and technically being “defensive”. T-Mobile, for example, you could say that they had no choice but to be disruptive. But they could have easily resigned themselves to being the distant 4th player, scramble up the market share fight, much in the same way that Sprint has done over the past few years. Instead, they aimed at the big guys AT&T & Verizon, targeting their most valuable customers with a completely disruptive narrative. That’s swinging for the fences!
In these threads here, you’re getting into one of the core themes of your book where you discuss companies like T-Mobile and Adobe being so successful by focusing on their future customers. How do you set yourself up for success there? How do you know when you’re chasing the right future customers versus the wrong ones?
This is the issue — you don’t ever really know for sure if they are the right customers! Until they become your current customers. That’s why lots of research, lots of options, lots of experience doing it right AND wrong gives you the CONFIDENCE to chase after them. You know that if you do it repeatedly, you’ll eventually get it right.
What I often see is that leaders want to know that they are RIGHT before they will pull the trigger and jump into the future. But by the time you are super sure you are right, the time has passed. You’re so much better off developing a few scenarios, having great execution options, and heading off in a direction that you think is right — but aren’t completely sure that it is. The ONLY way you’ll out is to go out and explore.
I love this quote:
“To stand still is to regress.”
– Edward Brooke
Thanks again, Charlene, for a candid and exciting interview. If you have ideas for who else Serial Marketers should host, I welcome your ideas.
As always, I also welcome hearing what you’re making of yourself.
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