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“Disruptive thinking” and business survival, part II

Characteristics of adaptive, agile organizations–part A

Recap of part I

In Part I of this article, I described how businesses do best when they integrate the latest, best quality digital technology with a dedication to innovation (aka disruptive thinking).

Agile vs. Legacy organizational structures

Startup and medium-sized lean organizations adapt to change more quickly and effectively than larger, older organizations because they embody a leaner, more collaborative approach to doing business. Their reason d’être, to begin with, is industry/market transformation. By contrast, established ‘legacy’ organizations often fail to recognize and adapt to disruptive change, a problem compounded by their slow-to-respond bureaucratic structures.

While traditional companies can learn from startup success, they can’t copy that business model entirely. This is because they need a command hierarchy to facilitate top-down decision making. At the same time, organizational development research supports the need within ‘legacy’ businesses for complementary ‘bottom-up’ open communication channels from all levels of personnel. Otherwise, how can leaders be informed and responsive to what’s happening throughout an organization?


Adaptive, Agile Organizations are Characterized by–

A Flat, Team-Based Collaborative Culture

A company’s culture is a combination of history, vision/mission guiding values, and formal/informal ways of doing work. New, adaptive, more agile organizations have the advantage of creating all those elements from the ground up. By comparison, older companies undergoing reorganization or re-engineering have to invest heavily in planning and implementation.

Flourishing, innovation-driven startups are characterized by open, ‘cross-silo’ communication and collaboration. Their employees are (or should be) carefully screened both for technical and interpersonal skills, (aka, emotional intelligence–a stronger predictor of business success than IQ). Without sophisticated interpersonal skills, the most brilliant and talented new hire can easily lower group morale, undermine productivity and reduce the quality of outcomes. –I’ve seen this unfortunate outcome in previous work environments.

  • QUICK TIP #1–Evaluate your hiring procedures. Make sure you have a carefully conceived, behaviorally based hiring system that reveals everything you need to know about candidates. (I plan to cover this issue in a future Insights article).
  • QUICK TIP #2– The latest approach to brainstorming adds a new step: individual team members write out and submit lists of ideas to an opportunity or challenge BEFORE the team meets to discuss the pros and cons of different solutions. This encourages greater participation, expands options and yields better outcomes.

In my next installment, I’ll define additional qualities of adaptive, agile organizations.

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