Disruption has never been more present and palpable.

Even before COVID-19, disruptive trends like the relentless evolution of technology, the rise of emerging markets and climate change were all forcing companies to reimagine how they did business.

The ability to learn and adapt faster than anyone else is becoming one of the only sustainable competitive advantages companies can rely on. Leaders need a whole new playbook to survive (and thrive) in this world.

Their success -post-COVID and beyond- will be determined by how well they can navigate change, reimagine what’s possible and take decisive action.

This means having the courage to take big risks and embrace failure as a necessary step in the learning process – it’s the only way to move forward in times of disruption and uncertainty. The organizations that refuse to take risks are the ones that suffer in the long term.

This is a summary of Ian Forshew’s Trending Topic Talk during Innov8rs Connect – Talent & Teams. Check the recording above.

Three Focus Areas

Embracing disruption requires a fundamental shift in leadership, culture and organization – without operating on all three levels you won’t achieve genuine transformation.

New Leadership

Leaders need to shift from “commander” to “catalyst.” When we’re stepping into new territory and creating something new, the only way to move forward is to test and iterate as you learn.

In this context, leaders can no longer set a fixed direction, take decisions and give orders. They need to unlock the collective capability and creativity of the entire ecosystem (internally and externally) and enable every partner in it to experiment and co-create solutions together.

They focus on clarifying the vision and engaging and motivating their teams to deliver their best work. They maximise insight, flexibility, and experimentation.

New Culture

The culture of the company must be underpinned by a growth mindset. Carol Dweck’s pioneering research showed that if you think your capability (or reality) is fixed, you’ll see failure as a threat and avoid it at all costs.

With a growth mindset, you believe capability can be grown and you embrace failure as a necessary step in that growth. Leaders and teams need to adopt this mindset in every aspect of their business – it means breaking new ground, taking risks and expanding opportunities rather than protecting the status quo.

When it comes to talent and teams, it means leaders need to genuinely believe that people can grow and create the psychological safety their teams need to try, fail and learn from their mistakes.

New Organizations

Organizations are moving from “machine” to “organism.” This means moving away from the idea of being a well-oiled machine to a flexible operational model. Machines assume that reality can be predicted and controlled and create rigid processes and systems to do so.

Organisms, on the other hand, are highly adaptive and evolve to meet changing needs of their environment. Disruptive organisations minimise traditional command and control to enable rapid decision-making by the teams closest to the products. They maximize the flexibility of their workforce and use small, cross-functional teams aligned around specific projects that deliver clear value for customers. They can easily be redeployed as business priorities shift. The HR systems, business planning, financial controls are all re-designed to support this new way of working.

It’s particularly important that organizations look at their performance management systems and start to recognize and incentivize the right behaviours.

Making the Change

To make this shift, you need to look at the whole system, rather than individual areas.

Additionally, it is important to start small and be willing to experiment. A willingness to take small risks and learn from them makes it possible to succeed even in the pandemic.

By using the cycle of “build, measure, learn,” organizations can experiment with new ideas, collect data, and learn from the success or failure of each new venture.

Leadership Challenges

There are four major challenges that leaders must overcome when faced with disruption and rapid change:
1. Lack of clarity
2. Old ways of thinking
3. Looking inwards instead of outwards
4. Lack of Fearlessness

Lack of Clarity

When faced with big shifts in the business landscape, management can often struggle with setting a clear vision, defining goals, knowing where to focus their attention, and clarifying time frames.

Old Ways of Thinking

When we’re innovating, experience can often be our biggest handicap. Many leaders who’ve been doing their jobs for decades have set ways of viewing what’s possible. This means they can fail to spot new opportunities and emerging trends and create truly innovative products.

Looking Inwards Instead of Outwards

Leaders in big organizations tend to look inwards. They’re driven by the organisation’s agenda rather than responding to emerging social, technological and economic trends and evolving consumer needs. They focus on their existing capabilities instead of searching for new ways to fulfill the organization’s vision.

Lack of Fearlessness

Many leaders stuck in a traditional mindset will avoid taking risks while they are setting strategies – playing not to lose instead of embracing opportunities to win. Ultimately this holds the organization back.

The T-Minus Disruptive Leadership Model

T-Minus created a disruptive leadership model to equip leaders with the skillset and mindset they need to tackle disruption. There are four parts:
· Insight
· Ambition
· Connection
· Experiment to execute


This is the center of the disruptive leadership model. This is a leader or organization’s ability to understand what is happening around them, to see the big picture and make connections others don’t see. Insight is people-centered and empathetic.

Leaders need insight into themselves, the way in which they are showing up and how this impacts others. Equally, leaders need insight into their colleagues, stakeholders and customers needs.


The most disruptive organisations have a clear vision and purpose – a north star that enables every person in the business to plot a strategic path forward. Increasingly, disruptive organisations are embracing triple bottom line thinking. They’re driven by a desire to have a positive social and environmental impact alongside making a profit.

It is vital for the vision to be translated into measurable goals so teams have clarity on what success looks like – this should be a co-creative and collaborative process across teams in partnership with leadership. Clear metrics for success are when you’re working in cycles of “build, measure, learn” to deliver on your vision, so you can gather useful data from every risk taken and iterate as needed.


Leaders actively consult and co-create their vision and strategy with their team, stakeholders and consumers. They look for new business models and platforms that harness the wisdom of the crowd and build in constant feedback loops so their products adapt to consumers’ needs as they evolve. They recognise that the best innovation is human-centred and the best organizations enable their employees to thrive.

Disruptive leaders strive to be coaches to unlock the ‘collective genius’ of their teams. They listen, practice empathy and create psychological safety. Google’s research on teams found that psychological safety – the ability for team members to share ideas (especially crazy ones!), make mistakes and admit when they don’t know – was the foundation of successful teams. Leaders need to role model these behaviours and be prepared to be vulnerable with their teams.

Experiment to Execute

The most innovative and disruptive organizations are ambidextrous – they balance executing on their existing agenda with experimenting on new ideas. Disruptive leaders are bold, creative thinkers who are relentlessly focused on improving the lives of their customers.

They constantly experiment with new ways to do that rather than sticking with the status quo and prioritising stability over learning. They are data-driven in their decision-making – everything is a hypothesis until there’s evidence to back it up.

They question their own assumptions and preconceived notions about what’s possible, embracing new ideas and integrating diverse perspectives to create something new. By using the “build, measure, learn” cycle, they come to high value solutions through iteration.

The organizations that thrive in uncertain times are the ones that are able to be flexible and take risks and learn fast — adopting a disruptive leadership mindset is the first step in achieving that.

Leaders are facing unprecedented challenges and the playbook we’ve been using for decades is out of date. T-Minus are rewriting the rules on leadership to equip leaders for an age of disruption.Help T-Minus & Innov8rs define the future of leadership by sharing your insights for the Disruptive Leadership Report here.


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