Whether you are a leader looking to advance in your organization, an owner trying to jump-start innovation, or an individual seeking something new, getting started on the path to disruption is not an easy task – especially if every opportunity seems out of reach, and every door appears closed.
I spoke with Whitney Johnson, a leading thinker on driving innovation through personal disruption.
In her new book, Disrupt Yourself : Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, she shares four key steps to finding an open door:
1. Identify what you do well.
What compliments do you repeatedly dismiss? These are the dismissals you do, not because you were being coy, but because the thing you were complimented on feels as natural as breathing. Maybe you’ve heard this compliment so many times, you’re sick of it!
The tendency to deflect compliments around what you do reflexively well is understandable, but in deflecting, you devalue the very strengths that are your superpowers. Something that comes easily or seems obvious to you may be rare and valuable to someone else.
2. Match your strengths with unmet needs.
Once you have a clear picture of your one-of-a-kind skills, 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 organization needs solved, and ask yourself: Can I fix that?
There is no shortage of jobs to be done or problems to be solved. But there’s only one of you. The right problems are those that you somehow feel called to solve, and are capable of solving, because of your expertise and accumulated life experiences.
3. Invite someone to lunch who is not exactly like you.
If you are having trouble finding an unmet need, talk with someone who works in a different industry or is an expert at something you are not. Seek out advice from someone of a different gender, ethnicity, race, or age. This can help open your eyes to find open doors.
While a closed network reinforces your sense of belonging, you hear the same ideas over and over again. An open network can be a bit painful because you will have to work harder to understand a person not like you, but you are more likely to have breakthrough ideas.
4. Reflect on the last time you were scared and lonely.
Now, give yourself a high five. When you are scared because you are trying something new, you’ll not only know that this endeavor matters to you, it probably means you are on the right path to disruption.
To do something astonishing will require that you walk through a door no one else has been through before. Think about the achievements you have made by surmounting some huge, probably unexpected, even undeserved, obstacle. Maybe it was your upbringing, health challenges, financial circumstances, or relationship woes.
Once you got over the “If only…” thoughts, you allowed your obstacles to become a tool of creation. By reflecting on your past accomplishments, you know you have the courage and strength to overcome fear and take risks — and that it will all be worth it.
Being able to find the open door and go through it can be scary because it’s uncertain. But because you’re blazing your own trail, you’re more likely to be successful. After all, you can’t find an open door without moving; and you can’t move without taking risks.