Disruption is an occurrence from which many leaders might shy away. But disruption should actually be sought after, according to Manny Gonzalez in his recent white paper “Product Innovation: How disruption produces progress.”
Mr. Gonzalez makes the point that innovation, particularly product innovation, is disruptive because it purposefully moves away from what is, to what can be, to what will be.
“Disruption is the enemy of the status quo, but smart, consumer-driven companies know the status quo can never remain,” he writes. “Today’s situation, no matter how profitable or how bleak, will indeed change; leaders bear the burden of ensuring things change in a positive direction.”
The opinions of Mr. Gonzalez, a graduate of Cornell and Harvard University and a visiting scholar at Oxford University, are certainly worth noting. Currently serving as President of MGM Consulting, he also had decades of experience at the world’s largest consumer products company, Procter & Gamble, where he served as Vice President, in Global Operations among other executive roles. Mr. Gonzalez is Vice-Chair, Center for Leadership Board of Advisors at Florida International University.
The need to move beyond the fear of change is critical for growth and development, Mr. Gonzalez tells his readers. “Smart product developers know that fear of the unknown disappears when the anticipation of what can be gained is realized,” he writes. “As companies grow in experience and expertise in dealing with and navigating change, disruption poses less of a threat and is approached with more excitement than anxiety. Once that happens, disruption is welcomed.”
Because his views on leadership have such merit, we asked Mr. Gonzalez what causes some leaders to want to embrace the status quo. “Just like other people, leaders of companies get into a comfort zone because they fear the unknown,” he said. “But making the migration to not only embrace change but to welcome it causes a true leader and their company to excel.”
Mr. Gonzalez classifies innovation into two types: sustaining, which builds from what you already do, and transformative which leverages a totally new way of thinking.
An Innovation Methodology for leaders.
In his white paper, Manny Gonzalez brilliantly outlines specific steps leaders can take to ensure that disruption that produces innovation is welcome:
- Encourage an innovation culture: By your example, your team should know you value innovation and welcome the disruption it will cause. Think about what’s going to make your products obsolete and look for innovations to replace them.
- Imagination Session: Have regular imagination sessions with your team to define the breakthrough you want to produce or problem you want to solve. Don’t be afraid to create and discover from other industries.
- Overcome Status Quo Hurdles: A true leader realizes the status quo is not sustainable and is no guarantee against losses. The status quo will eventually change – and it is always best to drive that change rather than being driven by it.
- Develop a Process for Innovation: Remember that people closest to the customers know what customers value so these team members need to drive innovation, both in the labs and in the field. Initiate a systemic review of innovation being produced by product line, geography, channel, etc.
- Streamline new products and structures with existing products and structures: The easiest approach to innovation is to layer new products and structures on top of existing ones. Avoid that. Rather, replace fading products and structures with new innovations.
- Listen to the feedback from buyers and employees: Establish a systemic feedback system with consumers and employees to understand the value they obtain from the innovations. These regular feedback sessions should include both those in the specific department that produced the innovation and outside advisors.
About the author
A graduate of Cornell and Harvard, Manuel “Manny” Gonzalez, is President of MGM Consulting and MGM Capital. He is in his second term as Chairman of the Board of the FIU Center for Leadership and a member of the Board of Directors of Alfalit International and SofBoost, Inc. while also serving on advisory boards for companies in the banking and private equity industries. Mr. Gonzalez received the National Hispanic Health Foundation Leadership Award in 2014.