“Disruptive Innovation” in the Workplace – Can it be Applied?

Clayton Christensen spoke at Interactions 2012 and introduced me to the concept of “Disruptive Innovation.” I found it a fascinating concept and since then, have kept some of his ideas in mind as I work with different organizations looking at their processes. I work with companies looking at ways to radically change or create new processes utilizingBusiness Process Automation (BPA) software.

I have the opportunity to travel all over the world looking at different company’s processes and have visited contact centers, distribution centers, financial institutions, insurance companies, healthcare companies and more. It is amazing to me that every company I visit thinks their problems are unique and that no other company is fighting the same battles. Common issues are capital budget issues, IT resource constraints, lack of visibility, project prioritization, inefficient manual processes, and more.

Without exception, within every company I have worked with there are people that challenge the concept of innovation or change. Changes are disruptive within an organization, but you wouldn’t always consider them a “disruptive innovation.” You can automate any new business process with BPA software, or even radically change an existing process. However if you don’t look to truly disrupt the business model, you may not be making an innovation within your department that leads to positive change.

Can the concept of disruptive innovation be used to create new processes in the work place in order to change how work is being done? I believe that it can. Christensen talks about changing existing markets by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, and affordability to a product or service. Here are two keys to making this theory work for you.

1. Simplicity. One thing I hear quite often is the idea that utilizing a BPA tool means the process must be complicated for it to work. Many companies tend to over-complicate a process and in so doing lose the disruptive element. The key is to keep a process simple and to not try to create a business rule for everything. By following this rule, you can create a solid business process and remain focused on the innovation you are trying to achieve.

2. Get buy in. I have learned over the years that you must get buy-in from the front line staff early on in a project. The people doing the work will normally be your greatest champions, serve as subject matter experts and can be the source of the greatest innovations. Many of the best ideas will come from front line staff who are generally very enthusiastic and willing to challenge the norm given the opportunity! Another side effect of bringing in front line staff is that they will take ownership of the new process and will be great advocates of the project with their peers to help you sell the change.

I am a believer in always challenging the status quo in an organization and asking simple questions about a process or what a business wants to accomplish. You will be amazed at the answers you will receive to a simple question such as, “Why do you do that?” My favorite response is, “that is how we have always done it!”

Do you have any examples of projects in your organization that were met with resistance to the change? If so, I would like to hear about your experience and how you handled the resistance or what lessons you learned during the discovery phase.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Patrick Patton

Patrick Patton

Patrick Patton

I started with Interactive Intelligence in October 2011 as a Pre-Sales Consultant for the Strategic Initiatives Group. In this role I work with companies who are looking for opportunities to utilize process automation tools, and review their current business processes to find those opportunities. Previously, I spent ten years with a Fortune 25 health insurance company and that is where I first encountered Interactive Intelligence in 2008. As the technology Director for an internal sales contact center, I led a team that implemented the Interactive telephony solution. Over the next three years I became very familiar with Interactive Intelligence as a company, their products and many of the employees. I was so impressed with what I had seen that I set a personal goal to find a position within the company. I have over 15 years’ experience in continuous/process improvement, project management, and operations. I am always interested in learning about new technologies and the creative ways companies and people are using them. On a personal note I am a car enthusiast (gearhead), enjoy travelling, and recently have taken up photography as a hobby.