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Disruption Branding UK

Never mind disrupting the entire industry – isn't it time you disrupted yourself first?


By Dom Burch | managing director

May 25, 2016 | 7 min read

Disruption is everywhere these days isn't it? Not a day goes by without another startup announcing it is going to change the world forever.

disrupt yourself

Robots will soon be delivering me hot pizza apparently. Good job, cold pizza is no bloody good to anyone.

Anyway, that's by the by.

I've recently started reading Disrupt Yourself by Whitney Johnson.

It's my kind of book in that it is fairly pacey, easy to read, and jam-packed with real-life examples to bring various points to life.

The marketing blurb is as you'd expect, and asks you to consider "this simple yet powerful idea: disruptive companies and ideas upend markets by doing something truly different – they see a need, an empty space waiting to be filled, and they dare to create something for which a market may not yet exist."

So therefore, the read out being why not apply those same principles to yourself?

The author adds: "We are living in an era of accelerating disruption – managing the S-curve waves of learning and mastering is a requisite skill. If you want to be successful in unexpected ways, follow your own disruptive path. Dare to innovate. Do something astonishing. Disrupt yourself."

OK, I'm in. Hand me the book...

As I waded through it, one particular chapter struck a chord. In it Whitney Johnson encourages you to identify what you do well by answering six key questions.

In the spirit of openness and my own self-development I'm going to share my answers with you. Try not to judge me.

What skills have helped you survive?

I'm a problem solver and I'm calm in a crisis.

I'm seemingly able to digest lots of information quickly and distill down the important points, picking out key insights in order to make a decision quickly.

I get along with people. I prefer to avoid conflict. I enjoy making light of situations and finding the fun in what can sometimes feel like hopeless situations.

What makes you feel strong?

The sense of winning, being first to think of something, or on the right path to somewhere new and different.

Being recognised as a thought leader, an expert in my field is important to me. I find it empowering.

Gaining the respect of others who I look up to and strive to be more like myself gives me a sense of self worth.

The opportunity to perform on a platform to an audience, presenting live radio, or penning and posting a blog I'm proud of, and seeing the positive impact it has on others.

Inspiring others, be that one on one through coaching or mentoring or in a larger group.

What exasperates you about others?

Their inability to make a fecking decision.

Pontificating over something menial or procrastinating over every little thing. Even if the decision is a 50:50 choice, just go one way or the other and move on. It's typically not life or death so no real harm can be done. Honestly...

What made you different, even an oddball, as a child?

My headmaster once said I could sell sand to the Arabs (forgive the analogy, we lived in different times in the late 1980s). In other more PC words I had the gift of the gab.

I used to constantly recite TV ads much to the annoyance of my dad who accused me of watching too much television. And I recorded myself pretending to be a radio presenter.

Oddly I didn't enjoy the final act of winning that much. If it meant someone else's feelings would be hurt I'd hold back. I wanted there to be a level playing field even if that meant handicapping myself. I hated bullies and people who belittled others and would deliberately befriend them just to annoy my 'cooler' friends. I always loved an underdog and still do.

What compliments do you shrug off?

I'm a great presenter. I'm the life and soul of the party. I'm an ideas man. I'm very creative. Apparently I think differently to other people.

Someone last week said I have the ability to lucidly describe complex problems that others have been struggling with for weeks.

Blah, blah, blah. Whatever.

What are your hard-won skills?

Managing large, disfunctional or underperforming teams. It's hard work and often extremely challenging.

My dad once said managing people never ends and is never easy. He's not wrong.

At first I was trying my best to solve 'people'. You learn through experience you can't fix others, you can only coach and lead them. Directing is not managing. They need to come with you willingly on their own accord or not at all.

That's it.

According to Johnson once you've identified your underlying assets or your core strengths, you also need to spot your distinctive strengths. Then match these with unmet needs.

She adds: "Once you have a clear picture of your one-of-a-kind skills, you can match those skills to unmet needs. Consider jobs where you'd be the wild-card candidate. Or look for ways to combine your passions. Look at problems that the organisation needs solved, and ask yourself: Can I fix that?"

The whole process is not too dissimilar to a technique used in coaching that uses five Post-It notes to arrive at the five motivational forces that drive you.

But the interesting difference is identifying what frustrates you about others.

It is a clever way of shining a light on your own genius. Forcing yourself to accept the compliments you shrug off also amplifies your unique strengths. They are what makes you different and valuable.

So perhaps it is time to stop ignoring what's great about you. What you take for granted about yourself is precisely what makes you stand out from the crowd.

I'd really encourage you to check the rest of her book out. If only to see the extraordinary journey she has been on personally.

In the meantime, grab a pen and take a moment to answer those six questions. The results may just surprise you.

Follow Dom on Twitter @DomBurch

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