My hometown of Minneapolis recently had the distinct pleasure of hosting two thought leaders, Josh Linkner and Whitney Johnson. Both are passionately invested in the possibilities created by “disruptive innovation.”
The Conversations on the Future of Business event was held atop the IDS Center, Minnesota’s tallest building. The 57-story skyscraper became a disruptive innovation in 1972, when it ended the 32-story Foshay Tower’s 43-year reign.
Josh and Whitney offered provoking insight into the psychology of an entrepreneur and the outcomes one can achieve by disrupting the status quo. The synergistic effects of the presentations were brilliant, sparking inspired conversation amongst the customers in the room — who represent top companies around the city — about the three resounding takeaways:
Embrace fear in order to act with courage
Too often we have two types of committees holding us back from outwardly expressing our creative potential: those sitting in our boardroom, and those sitting in our head. This concept is very familiar to me, but that day, it resonated even more.
Josh displayed a Christian Louboutin pump on the screen with its signature red sole. He pointed out that the feature that readily distinguishes this high-end product is its trademark hue, Pantone 187 C, and that we all should have our own Pantone 187 C. He asked the audience if we knew what brand this shoe was, and I mumbled “Louboutin.” Mind you, what I said was not the correct phonetic pronunciation (loo-boo-tan’), but being that the room was 99 percent Millennial-free, I was in the clear.
Following Josh’s session, Whitney told me that she was too afraid to answer Josh’s question because even though she knew the designer, she was not 100 percent certain of how to pronounce the name. So there you have it, folks!
Even the thought leader on “putting failure in its place,” acted on a moment of self-doubt. Daring to fail, daring to disrupt; it’s what enables us as humans to evolve.
Stop controlling the P/E Ratio
“If you are feeling scared and lonely, it means you are likely on track,” Whitney said. That “delicious dopamine of the unpredictable” is the hanger for our dreams.
My sister, a primetime Millennial, recently had her first real job interview post-college. She sent me a text on her way to the interview that said, “I am so nervous, but so excited!!”
I wish I had known Whitney’s P/E, or Puke-to-Excitement ratio. It’s my new favorite term, and it would have sounded far less hokey than what I had actually said — something like, “Channel those nerves into pure adrenaline of excitement, why don’t you!” The truth is anyone who has ever achieved something remarkable, first did something courageous. Check out: 10 rejection letters sent to famous people.
Battling the “committee inside your head” is something you have control over, and the “committee in the boardroom” is an organizational development needed to train people not to hold back their ideas out of fear of judgment or the consequences of potential failure.
Josh had some great suggestions for ways to create a non-judgment dialogue in a work setting. One was the idea to “role-storm” rather than “brainstorm.” You pick a leader and a blocker, and attack a real business problem by pretending to be someone else. So the blocker’s job is to challenge everything the leader says, but by playing anybody but their real self (e.g., Barack Obama or Lady Gaga). You are streaming ideas freely without fear of rejection holding you back.
Entrepreneurs and Millennials have a lot in common
Think of Millennials as the IDS Center of the workplace. My commercial forefathers and I would be the Foshay Tower.
disrupt: to interrupt by causing a disturbance or problem; to drastically alter or destroy the structure of (something); See: disruptive and delinquent children.
Even as we raise young ones to conform to a bureaucratic culture, and demand that they not challenge authority or policy, they acquire considerable aptitude for initiative and risk. Millennials, like entrepreneurs, pursue opportunity “without regard to resources currently controlled” and have a deflated concern for monetary dependencies.
It is now a corporate responsibility to challenge Millennials to adapt to a new idea of disobedience, one with a reversed connotation. Contrary to what was learned as students; it is not only acceptable, but it is encouraged, to exercise tactics of cerebral defiance.
It is a very intriguing concept, especially when you couple it with the fact that as members of society, we innately think that, as Whitney noted, “we don’t have to listen to people who are not like us.” So you have five generations of people working side by side, you have millennial who are brand new to the workforce and are theoretically nothing like previous generations.
Are people going to listen to them, especially if their disruption could be mistaken for lack of respect for authority or company culture?
Workers from every generation should heed Josh and Whitney’s call to act as investors in the next generation in the workplace: Teaching Millennials (and beyond) to build trust through failing, and help them unravel their best propensity to succeed.