Inventions and innovations are all predicated on disrupting something else. However, it’s hard to make a business case for something that will disrupt the status quo when there is no or little data for it. And human nature hates disruption. Why fix what’s not broken? Why take risks when what you’ve always done still works?

That’s fear talking. Disruption may not seem rational or easy to justify, but that’s the cost of innovation that changes the game.

Like many industries, the pharma sector is very interested in how to disrupt tried-and-true ways of doing things. But sometimes old habits are hard to break. I worked with a team from a struggling medical device company that insisted it would take 18 months to deliver a project. This seasoned team knew each other’s capabilities and had a well thought-out plan, but the company could be out of business before their project even wrapped.

Faster project timelines

My job was to disrupt how they worked. In the end, we shortened the project’s timeline to four-and-a-half months.

What was holding this team back? Four years prior, compliance issues forced the team to put into practice a number of activities, such as multiple inspection channels and signoffs, to manage risk. Those activities were necessary and effective then, but were no longer applicable to this project. In fact, they did nothing to manage or reduce risk and did everything to add complexity and longer cycle times. Quality was not enhanced because, with seven signatures at every turn, no one person owned quality. No one was accountable.

Failing to disrupt work practices continues to add unnecessary time and cost to a project.

Leaders don’t have a choice to stay where they are. They need to be agile. Agility allows employees to disrupt things as they’re working. It gives them permission to move freely and nimbly.

There’s a natural tension between balancing the status quo and what’s innovative. You can’t have one without the other, but you can’t be too invested in either one.

Companies are making headlines for replacing senior leadership with new blood. This makes me think that they’re not adapting to innovation as quickly as they should. New leaders may not be any better equipped. They must be willing to creatively analyze the business, environment, and the future and be agile leaders.

Disruption is moving in a way that is focused, fast, and flexible. Don’t dodge it — embrace it.

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