A Culture of Disruption

The digital era is providing more opportunity than ever before for market disruptors. And now, even original disruptors like Netflix, Facebook, Airbnb, eBay, and Uber are finding themselves close to mainstream and under attack by upstarts, each with an even better defined purpose and promise. Some estimates suggest that 40% of Fortune 500 businesses will not exist in ten years because of failure to adapt to the digital era.

Business leaders bracing for disruption are shifting their corporate culture to empower their people to innovate. They are staying nimble and agile and ready to react at a moment’s notice. But how do you change the culture within an organization to embrace innovation? Strong corporate cultures are linked to environments that enable employees to understand what is expected of them. But culture is not something you can mandate – it has to be authentic.

The question is not whether your organization has a corporate culture, but rather what kind it has. One that works for you or one that works against you. One that is established by design or one that just happens. One that is clear and well defined by the organization or one that is vague and open to individual interpretation.

Corporate reputation – an external brand – is shaped by corporate culture – an internal brand. The internal brand is an organization’s culture. Culture is “the way we do things around here.” It is a set of behaviours that is common knowledge among employees. It defines why it does what it does and why it does it – the organization’s purpose.

A robust internal brand that is real and authentic provides a foundation for driving principles, goals and objectives that align with the business strategy. It is about driving momentum. Momentum starts with people understanding their role in delivering on the brand’s purpose. And every employee wants to believe their contributions are absolutely essential to the success of their organization’s purpose.

There are common characteristics among organizations that have created a culture of innovative disruption. Their corporate handbook has few rules, keeping it simple and creating an environment for success rather than trying to control it with complicated processes. They focus on corporate values and hire, fire, promote and reward based on how well their employees live the values. They focus on great work over long hours. They are goal oriented and discuss corporate goals internally on a regular basis.

Disruption is how companies outdo the competition. It is how startups overthrow long established brands. And corporate cultures that foster disruption and innovation will consistently lead the pack.