To be un-disruptable, todays leaders need to maintain constant pressure on transforming their organizations by cultivating a high-tolerance, if not a passion for ambiguity.  For anyone who finds change burdensome and hard to handle, this news is not mana from heaven!

In a recent study conducted by Deloitte they asked what does it take to transform a successful organisation by identifying the key characteristics of Fortune 250 CEOs who are responding to market disruption. Having interviewed the CEO’s of 24 complex, global organisations in industries spanning banking, pharma, tech, food processing, health-care delivery, retail and manufacturing, they attempted to answer this one key question “ What does it take to be un-disruptable today, and what will be demanded of CEO’s and their organisations to avoid disruption tomorrow?”

What emerged were five essential attributes that were deemed particularly significant. While many interviewed didn’t claim they exhibited all or most of these attributes, they viewed them in any case, as essential aspirations. And for many of them they are aspirations, but still a useful guide for anyone tasked with transforming brands or organisations.

  1. Embrace ambidexterity

How to achieve an organization that is ambidextrous across all areas? How do you reconcile the continuous tensions between short term gains, and long term risk taking and innovation? If companies want to stay ahead of the curve, they should forever be enhancing current operations, while exploring the continually emerging new frontier. Embedding this combination of exploitation and experimentation, across all processes, structures, and cultures, is required to build a truly ambidextrous organisation. Comfort with ambiguity and chaos is aligned with personality but is far from a hard wired characteristic. Many of the CEO’s interviewed noted how they developed this competency over time.

  1. Cultivate emotional fortitude

Leaders need to use fear of the rapidly changing landscape to fuel more productive outcomes and accept failure is a risk when placing big bets. This is referred to as “emotional fortitude” – the need for leaders to combine a sober assessment of potential risks and roadblocks with the fearlessness to pursue lofty visions.

So how does emotional fortitude manifest:

  • Being very clear on their company’s purpose and using this clarity of purpose as a rallying call to galvanise the organisation around their vision.
  • Find relative comfort in making mistakes. Embracing an attitude of “let’s try this” while knowing there is a strong possibility it may fail.
  • Managing a healthy ego that supports one’s personal legitimacy, while respecting the value of others, often dissenting voices.
  1. Encourage a beginner’s mindset

The Zen Buddhism concept of Shoshin means “beginners mind”. In the words of Shunryu Suzuki, “in the beginners mind there are many possibilities but in the experts there are few”.

And in certain Benediction communities they start each day with the words “I begin”. This openess to possibilities is critical and imperative to mastering a beginners mindset. Leave your preconceived notions to one side and open yourself to possiblities.

Central to the notion of beginner’s mind-set is the willingness and the ability to replace the confidence that comes with experience with the curiosity that comes from naivete.

While this is not traditionally expected of senior leaders, respondents did stress the importance of having the “eyes” of someone who does not know everything. They found greater comfort and far better outcomes in asking questions and being genuinely inquisitive.

  1. Mastering disruptive jujitsu

Striving to become masters of disruptive jujitsu is how leaders aspire to handle disruption, recognising threating disruptions, breaking them in to their components, selecting those components that can strengthen their organisation and then finding a way to hijack these disruptive elements for their own competitive advantage. The first step towards harnessing disruptive threats is to identify them – prioritizing and interpreting what has become an abundance of discordant and disorganised information. They are Sherpas in the search for identifying the nature and direction of these forces.

The second step is finding ways to turn those threats to your advantage.

  1. Become the ultimate end-user ethnographer

And finally the latest key characteristic of the disruptive mindset is understanding customer experience at a deep granular level. Obsessing over nuances of the entire customer experience is familiar to CEO’s and they expressed a need for much greater proficiency in achieving it. This means they are watching customers more closely, in new ways, as they are searching or sharing, trying or buying, and they are constantly striving to give customers what they want, quickly and effortlessly. This requires nothing short of an ethnography of the end-to end customer experience, from the top of the marketing funnel to exceptional after-sales service.

To conclude, to accomplish this means creating a great mastery of paradoxical skills and building more adaptable organisations designed to facilitate a steady stream of micro-revolutions. But the most positive take out, is that these skills are learned and not hardwired and with greater focus and practise become increasingly important in the senior leader’s arsenal.


Pinksalmon is a strategic growth marketing agency working with b2c and b2b brands to deliver marketing effective and sustainable growth. To find out more drop me a mail