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Agility: Positively Disrupt or Be Disrupted

In today’s dynamic business environment, lack of agility is the kiss of death. A study from Washington University shows that an estimated 40% of today’s S&P 500 companies will no longer exist a decade from now. Today organizations need to embrace the mantra, “positively disrupt or be disrupted.” Harvard economist, Joseph Schumpeter, popularized the concept of disruption way back in 1942. His argument was that surges of innovation would devastate incumbent firms and generate the impetus for new ones to emerge. The result, he hypothesized, was both successes and failures. That is, new businesses emerge and incumbent businesses are pressured to adapt or die. In today’s dynamic business environment Schumpeter's arguments have never been more true.

The key to creating such adaptation is enabling agility through adaptive space. Adaptive space is, quite simply, the freedom for bold ideas to flow into and throughout an organization. It can be thought of as the relational and emotional connections necessary for people to freely explore, exchange and debate ideas. Organizations need to open up connections for people, ideas, information and resources to come together and interact in ways that enhance agility.

By tapping into the power of network dynamics, adaptive space creates connections that serve to discover, develop and diffuse new ideas into and across an organization. It helps to gather and distribute information in ways that promote positive disruption. That is, to proactively disrupt themselves in anticipation of environmental pressures. This works by intentionally facilitating interconnectivity. In particular, there are four types of connections that are critical. Discovery and development represent the “relational connections” that indicate an individual’s network position as either a broker or connector. While diffusion and disruption represent the “emotional connections” that shift the energy within a network as energizers and challengers engage in interactions. Together, the 4D connections usher in the innovative ideas and novel solutions necessary to positively disrupt.

1. Discovery Connections provide access to novel ideas, new insights, and learning that lead to agility. Brokerage is key. Brokerage represents the bridge connections between groups and provides a conduit of fresh ideas and information into and across the organization.

2. Development Connections enable cohesive teams to facilitate the idea elaboration and refinement process. Cohesive groups represent many redundant connections within a team. This enables the development and refinement of ideas that make them more amenable to scaling.

3. Diffusion Connections facilitate the linking up process to move ideas beyond development into the broader organization for scaling. Energizers are critical to diffusion. They amplify ideas across the organization and attract others to more actively engage in bold solutions.

4. Disruption Connections help to break down the roadblocks that exist within organizations that stifle innovation. Challengers disrupt existing structures to enable the active flow of ideas and ensure that new solutions are formally endorsed.

Together, the 4D connections facilitate the active interplay of discovery, development, diffusion and disruption. The result is greater agility.

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