Redesign, then re-learn: A blueprint for beating disruption

What is disruption?

Is it cliche? Absolutely. “Disruption” has become a catch-all for anything outside of the status quo. Its original meaning — transformative change — has almost been lost to overuse.

Is it unknown? You bet. What disruptions will impact us tomorrow? You got me. I’m pretty sure something is going to change the rules. What that thing will look like, though, is beyond me.

Is it a cautionary tale? Without a doubt. Ignore the plight of cab drivers and hotel chains at your peril. If you refuse to acknowledge the groundbreaking impact Uber and AirBNB have had on those industries, you’re a dinosaur.

Disruption is all of those things. Mostly, though, it’s a hard trend — a future fact. The way this profession operates has changed for good, and will continue to change thanks to advances in technology.

So what do we do about it?

My gut tells me we have to outlearn the pace of change, that we have to adopt a lifelong learning mindset in order to stave off disruption.

That’s pretty nebulous, though. There aren’t a lot of specifics in that chain of thought.

Morten Hansen is trying to fill in the blanks.

He’s the author of a terrific new book titled Great At Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More. In it, he offers a blueprint for how to avoid becoming obsolete in an age of chaos and complexity.

That blueprint combines the concepts of “redesign” with what Hansen calls the “learning loop.”

Let’s take them one at a time.

Redesign is simply the concept of changing what we do to reflect new realities. Hansen offers this example:

“Professors Amy Edmondson, Richard Boomer, and Gary Pisano at the Harvard Business School chronicled how a few surgery teams managed to adapt to a new technology that disrupted their profession: They shifted from open-heart surgery to a new method, minimally invasive cardiac surgery (MICS), while others struggled to do so. The successful adopters first embraced the redesign because they understood minimally invasive surgery for what it was: a radical departure from traditional surgery. By contrast, unsuccessful teams that couldn’t cross over to the new surgical method regarded it as simply an extension of existing methods.”

In other words, those who embrace redesign see it as something fundamentally new, while those who don’t see it as something to bolt onto old, outdated business models. As an example: Successful redesign means you don’t simply do social media; it means you become a more social organization.

The second of Hansen’s concepts is the “learning loop.” This refers to how you make time to learn critical new skills in an era when we’re busier than ever just doing our jobs.

Hansen says there are six steps to the learning loop:

  1. Time: Carve out 15 minutes per day and focus on one key skill at a time.
  2. Chunk it: Break your desired skill into small, daily micro-behaviors — a concrete action you take on a daily basis to improve a skill.
  3. Measure the “soft”: Track your micro-behaviors. How did you do? “If you’re working on listening better, did you make eye contact with the person who was speaking?” asks Hansen.
  4. Get feedback: This should consist of brief, informal, instant comments — and the quality of the feedback matters. “It includes information about how well a person did and suggestions for how to modify behaviors,” Hansen writes.
  5. Dig the dip: Conduct small experiments to limit any downside, and then implement those that work.
  6. De-automize your routines and push beyond the stall points.

I hate to boil it down to its simplified essence, but here you go: Innovate. Disrupt yourself before someone else disrupts you. Learn constantly. Be systematic. Track your results. Ask for feedback. Then do it again.

That’s how you become future-ready: Look further ahead than your competition. Keep an eye on the horizon. Know what’s coming … and what you need to do to prepare.

Redesign. Then re-learn. Then repeat.

If you take the time to invest in yourself, you’ll take your organization to the next level.

Are you ready to go down that road?


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