Whole Brain® Thinking and Business Disruption

by | Jan 31, 2023

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Every established organisation gets disrupted eventually. If you’re lucky enough to survive it, you’ll probably wonder why you didn’t see it coming and what you can do differently next time. 

A disruption management plan helps you combine elements of strategy, innovation, change management and scenario planning to clarify what you need to do ⁠— and when. A good disruption management plan allows you to respond to volatile and ambiguous situations with focus and rigour.

Discover why successful businesses struggle with disruption, what goes into a disruption management plan and how the Whole Brain® Model can help.

What is business disruption?

Business disruption is a term that describes any event or occurrence which interrupts the normal function of an organisation, either internally or externally. It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, pandemics, supply chain disruptions, technical glitches, and more. Regardless of the cause, all business disruptions have one thing in common: they can significantly disrupt operations and negatively impact customers.

In order to weather these disruptions and minimise their impacts on business operations, organisations must take proactive steps to ensure their disaster recovery plans are up to date and effective. This includes developing strategies for restoring data quickly and safely while taking into account potential risks associated with each type of disruption. There should also be measures in place to reduce the risk of disruption in the first place, such as investing in strong cybersecurity measures and regularly testing disaster recovery plans.

Ultimately, business owners must be aware of the potential risks and threats associated with any type of disruption and have a plan in place to protect their operations from harm. With proper planning, organisations can reduce their chances of experiencing significant disruptions and ensure their customers continue to receive quality service during difficult times.

3 Common mistakes leaders make in the face of business disruption

Ignoring the Market Disruption

Incumbents might have good reasons for not focusing on less profitable or low-demand segments, which are often what startups target. However, the risk is that new entrants use this foothold to eventually move upmarket, undercutting incumbents’ core markets and stealing their best customers. 

Established companies may ignore these disruptions not because they don’t care or notice. These firms are understandably focused on high-margin customers and don’t see minor innovations as a threat. But even if incumbent leaders notice the disruption in their target markets, entrenched processes and mindsets may prove too resistant to change. 

Refusing to Collaborate With Industry Disruptors

When incumbents do finally recognise the disruptors in their market, their first instinct is often to fight back. But competing directly isn’t the only option. They can explore collaborative opportunities with these new entrants or even acquire them. 

Collaboration with a disruptive entrant requires different ways of thinking and a willingness to explore and accept new perspectives. Too many businesses refuse to consider collaboration, perhaps because they don’t trust outsiders or don’t accept outside ideas. Perhaps the most famous example of this failure is when Netflix offered to sell itself to Blockbuster in 2000. Blockbuster failed to see the value of combining its market leadership in physical stores with this online startup’s advantages. The mistake ultimately led to the demise of Blockbuster. 

Failing to Leverage Innate Advantages

Established companies aren’t doomed to fail just because disruptive newcomers emerge. IBM, General Motors, 3M and Apple are just four examples of long-lasting industry leaders that are vastly different today than they were decades ago. These incumbents have outlasted many disruptions ⁠— sometimes reshaping markets themselves.

Moreover, incumbents are not without advantages. As Thomas W. Malnight and Ivy Buche of IMD write, incumbents can address multiple problems simultaneously because they have the resources and scale that no disruptor can match. Incumbents can indeed struggle to be agile and fast-moving. But what they excel at is crafting long-term vision and strategy — and sticking to it. Incumbents might not move as quickly as disruptors, but they can win by being more patient, avoiding obvious mistakes and applying their vast collective experience to new business conditions. 

Utilising Whole Brain® Thinking to create a disruption management plan

The Whole Brain® Thinking Model can be a powerful tool to help leaders in established organisations swiftly identify disruptive threats and compete in a fast-changing environment. Here’s how it can guide your process.

Experimental: Explore all options 

Start by assembling a cross-functional team, one that is multigenerational and multidisciplinary. This team must prioritise diversity and inclusion. 

Give that working group the freedom to generate a wide variety of experimental business ideas, outside of the constraints of your current business practices, products or services.  Give them the freedom to cast a very wide net and explore those concepts without preemptive judgement.

Relational: Socialise the best ideas to build your business case

Once the core group has a set of ideas they want to explore, it’s time to present them to potential stakeholders and gather feedback and buy-in.

This is where your team begins to prototype, socialise and analyse their best ideas. The more innovative the idea, the more likely they are to encounter resistance to the change, so it’s important to be prepared for that. 

At the end of this stage, you should have what you need to create a compelling business case for your proposed innovation. You may even find that more than one idea holds up and decide to hedge your bets by investing in multiple options. (This is the advantage of being an incumbent, after all!).

Practical: Execute your business transformation

This step of the disruption management process requires putting all your investigation and planning into action. It’s time to plan and supervise the execution of your business transformation. 

In this step, you’ll need to define the reasoning, requirements and definition of success for a culture transformation and a parallel systems transformation. Because of the scale and complexity of business restructuring, each system — operations, technology, finance, logistics, etc. — will need to plan and execute its own transformation. 

The initial core team will need to work with subject matter experts in the technologies and disciplines the new model introduces. Cognitive diversity and inclusion remains critical here, too. 

Analytical: Evaluate the results

This is arguably the most critical step in the whole process — and it’s often overlooked. Here, you’re double-checking that you completed the transformation and measuring its results. Did everything go to plan? What needs to be adjusted, redone or scrapped? 

Even after you give the all-clear, don’t rest on your laurels. Innovation should be a continuous process. If you can be disrupted once, you can be disrupted again. Retaining the systems transformation people on your disruption management team will keep you vigilant and one step ahead of further disruptions.

If you want to learn more about how Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® can help you and your organisation, have a look at how it works here or get in touch and we’ll help you find the right solution.

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