Disrupted, Disruptors… Unite!

Blue Painting by Wassily Kandinsky

A short while ago, one of my tweets – that seemed to me no different from what I usually publish on Twitter – was favorited and RTed way more than any of my previous tweets. It made me curious to understand why. Was there anything in its content that was particularly appealing? Any learning I could draw from this?

This tweet is a simple, short sentence captured in Whitney Johnson’s article of Aug. 2011 in the Harvard Business Review, “Disrupt Yourself”. I hadn’t seen this paper when it was published, but I got in touch recently with Whitney – discussing how one can personally embrace disruption in a world of complexity –, then I came to read this article. It provides a great example of driving personal disruption, embracing change, overcoming fears, taking risks for the better.

Disrupt Yourself

Being a kind of professional disruptor on a permanent basis (one of the hot jobs of tomorrow…), I’m convinced that change starts with ourselves, at our very individual level. Organizations would be more engaging, business more relevant, and life more interesting if more people (in the corporate world, and else) dared to think different and to take risks. Even just a little.

For this reason, I’ve enjoyed reading the paper and I naturally shared it on Twitter. Whitney kindly retweeted the message which greatly extended its reach – she is a respected thought leader and has built a wide audience.

But I think it doesn’t explain all. Why has this sentence been so popular?

“If it feels scary and lonely, you’re probably on the right track”

My guess is that people have been moved by this particular sentence. It conveys an emotional feeling that resonates loudly with what change agents experience on a regular basis. Loneliness and fear.

Driving change, either at work or in one’s personal life, is never easy. Even when you get older, even when you’ve accumulated experience of conducting successful changes. Disruption experiences always come with something new: new environment, new opponents, new traps, backlash – or apathy, betrayal sometimes… and a fair amount of disappointment when considering results compared to the amount of work done. Failure? Possibly. Although you always learn something from (even unsuccessful) disruption.

Disrupted, Disruptors… You are not alone

It’s a bit ironic that precisely this tweet about feeling scared and alone is shared by many. If you’re numerous, you’re not alone anymore!

This is, to me, the key to driving at best personal or professional disruption. It takes a lot of courage to change things; it can be painful and scary. That’s why it is so important to connect with other change makers. Knowing you are not alone makes disruption considerably easier. When you’re able to share your feelings AND benefit from others’ experience, the weight of change feels much lighter. You may even find yourself joining or launching a community with other change makers and turn your frustration into a positive force.

My communities

In my case, family and friends provide the closest support, and their emotional backing is precious whenever I go through turbulent times. But it’s not always possible to share about everything, especially change in the workplace – can be pretty boring for them actually. Fortunately, I’ve found many ways to connect with other disruptive thinkers:

  • At work, through internal social networks and communities
  • Through external social networks, mostly Twitter and Google+. This is where I came across the inspiring, supporting @corprebels and @Rebelsatwork communities, as well as like-minded individuals I might never meet in real life. Sometimes, a mere look at a comment below a post or an answer to a tweet raised my interest, and triggered a rich, meaningful conversation with someone half a world away. The most recent examples of this happened with Nollind Whachel (hi Nollind!) and Jennifer Gilhool​ (hello!) whose experience and thoughts I’ve found resonated a lot with mine.
  • In communities of practice such as the mind blowing Change Agents Worldwide group (you’ll hear a lot about it soon!) and the amazing community of people encountered at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit

I wouldn’t be able to thrive without them, and my gratitude is infinite.

What about you, change makers? Do you feel “lonely and scared” sometimes? And what do you do about it?


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