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Considering it’s typically negative connotation, disruption is not the first word that comes to mind when I think of making change. Innovation, revolution, restructuring or even transformation maybe – but never disruption. It wasn’t until I came across a 1995 article from the Harvard Business Review describing the theory of disruptive innovation that I began to understand the allure of the phrase. In short, disruptive innovation describes what happens when an organization creates a new product or service that dominates its industry. 

Consider, as Harvard Business Review suggests, Sony’s early transistor radios. Sony “created a market for portable radios by offering a new and different package of attributes—small size, lightweight, and portability.” 

More recently, we can look to companies like Netflix, Airbnb and Uber as examples of disruptive innovation. All three have redesigned their respective industries by creating products and services that blew away their competition. 

So, what does this mean for associations?

Although becoming the next Netlflix or Uber is very appealing, “disruption is ultimately about creating an interruption in our patterns,” says EngagedHR. “We disrupt when the status quo, the same old, and the tried and true are no longer working. We disrupt when we are looking for, craving even, something new and different.”

Here’s how being disruptive truly makes a difference:

It opens the door for new things

Using methods of disruptive innovation creates a precedent in your organization for out-of-the-box thinking, allowing your employees to feel comfortable taking risks and creating new products. According to Fast Company, “this gives the freedom to try new things and avoid crossover between a proven concept and a new, highly risky, unproven concept.”

It emphasizes the ability to fail.

As outlined in “The Effects of COVID-19 on Associations: Why failing matters more than ever,” choosing to embrace change – and its potential failure – leads to successful and highly innovative organizations. 

It doesn’t just change your organization; it changes everything.

As leaders in innovation, it is the responsibility of associations to make a difference and lead the change wanted in the world. Disruptive innovation impacts entire industries, from members, lower management and all the way to up C-suite executives. Whether it be your audience, your organization, your competitors, or your industry as a whole, disruptive innovations do not only affect your organization – they affect everyone and everything.

When it comes to associations, disruptive innovation is not just a want – it’s a need. Our leaders have the unique ability to drive innovation and pilot advancements in their respective industries, and it is imperative that organizations understand this because, as author and thought leader John Spence put it bluntly during a presentation for our exclusive course on cultural transformation, “if you don’t innovate, you die.”

Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
September 1, 2020
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.