Disruptive Thinkers Identify Opportunities

Managing Change Through Disruptive Thinking: Part 1 of 4

Maintaining the status quo is not always helpful, especially when unexpected changes occur around you. To thrive in this industry, being ready to meet challenges head-on is important. This is true for individuals, teams and organizations. Analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities and then setting goals accordingly will help you become more agile. With those tools in hand, you’ll be ready to face any challenge. This may sound easy, but it can be quite a challenge. Ask Fuel First asks an important question about managing change: How can I use disruptive thinking to find opportunities for my practice?

Imagine you receive an email from the practice owner on a Friday afternoon informing staff of an all-company meeting on Monday to discuss some big changes. The email’s purpose is to inform everyone that they will all be part of some changes come Monday morning, but no other details are mentioned. Then the owner wishes the team a happy weekend.

If you look around the room as employees start opening their emails, you might discover mixed reactions to the news. You might even be able to feel the tension in the air.

  • Some employees might get teary-eyed as they begin to run through all the worst-case scenarios in anticipation of the change.
  • There is probably a portion of the people in the room who won’t seem phased at all. They’ll say things like, “I’m sure whatever it is, it’s not going to affect me” or “I’m used to this by now. How bad could it be?”
  • For a few, it will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and they’ll say things like, “I’m out. I’ll start looking for a new job this weekend.”

Regardless of the employees’ reactions, almost everyone’s weekend is wrecked. That’s because when most people think of change, they think of what they will have to “give up” or what they will lose, not about the opportunities that might result from the change.

Imagine everyone’s surprise when they arrived to work on Monday to find that the office had been completely remodeled with new paint colors and all-new furniture. Not what people usually expect when a big change is announced. And it makes sense because change often involves a disruption that people will have to tend to.

We Know About Disruption

Our industry is currently experiencing disruption from all sides of our business. Third-party payers are disrupting our pricing models. Over-the-counter hearing aids are disrupting the perceived value of our profession. Staffing shortages and turnover disrupt the time we spend with patients. And the list goes on.

Disruption always involves change—a change in process, service or products and certainly a change in thinking.

When thinking about change, we need to let go of the notion of “how bad is this going to be?” or “what am I going to lose because of this?” But it’s just as important to let go of the thought that “things are going well” or clinging to the status quo as a means to avoid change. This type of thinking holds us back and allows change to get the best of us.

Here’s why.

The disruptions we are talking about today go far beyond advances in technology and improving processes. They have the potential to change our industry and will challenge us to alter how we think, behave and act about specific ideas, items, products or services. To survive, we need to situate ourselves and our practices to prevent these changes from overwhelming or taking control of us.

Disruptive Changes Lead to Disruptive Thinking

Disruptive thinking challenges the traditional way of doing things in an organization (or even an entire industry). The reason it’s disruptive is that it typically brings about innovations that completely change the way that a company or industry behaves.

For example, consider Netflix. Before Netflix existed, people would watch movies at a movie theater or rent/purchase DVDs from a video rental company like Blockbuster. Netflix started by sending DVD rentals to people’s homes via the post office. It was a new concept that took a while for people to catch on to, but once the change took hold, Netflix became the standard in movie rental. The downfall of Blockbuster is an example of a company that didn’t handle this disruptive change well. They went from thousands of locations nationwide to one Blockbuster store left in the U.S. in Bend, Oregon—and it’s more of a tourist attraction than anything else. Netflix disrupted how people view movies (and we could argue that the way people watch television changed, too). We’re pretty sure almost everyone reading this has some sort of movie-streaming subscription because of Netflix’s disruption of the status quo.

How To Become a Disruptive Thinker

Those in the audiology industry have to be prepared to challenge how we do business RIGHT NOW. And that can be difficult to accept, especially if the way we’re doing business is currently working for us. When Netflix was launched, Blockbuster was comfortable with its business model because it worked for them then. Blockbuster clung to the status quo, thinking that the idea of a storefront would never go away. We all know how that worked out, but imagine what would have happened if Blockbuster had challenged its existing business methods. Here are some of the ways you can do just that:

  1. Don’t underestimate advances in technology

    Blockbuster turned down a chance to purchase Netflix before it made its model obsolete. It’s easy to assume that whatever’s currently popular will remain, but a technological revolution is often just around the corner. In audiology, technological advances are occurring. Just look to Shoebox and Cognivue.
  2. View the marketplace as though your company is struggling

    This is more common than it sounds. Fear for the survival of your business or your position in an organization can often drive the kind of disruptive thinking that successful, risk-averse organizations are afraid of. To break out of the thought process of “no need to change, things are going well,” innovation and change are often motivated by threats.
  3. Look for “analogies” in other industries

    Not all disruptions have to be 100% original ideas. Models used in different industries can be transplanted into another sector and be just as disruptive. For example, subscription services were successful for a long time for magazines before Spotify thought to apply the same model to music. Finding evidence that a model has worked in another sector could be a telltale sign that it might succeed in your own.
  4. Turn your strengths and weaknesses into opportunities

    An article in the Harvard Business Review said, “The silver lining to any disruption (or change) in the workplace is an opportunity, often to add new skills to your repertoire or work with new team members” (McClarty, 2020). Change is not always a bad thing. It can create new positions, new products or services or opportunities to learn new concepts.

Before fully embracing disruptive change, you need to understand your organization’s capabilities. The SWOT analysis tool helps you look at four areas of your business: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Disruptions are best managed by identifying opportunities and leveraging strengths, which is why the SWOT analysis comes in so handy. Amid the uncertainty, it helps put you in control of change and prepares you for a better future.

Using the SWOT analysis is not as easy as it seems. Please get in touch with Fuel Medical’s Professional Development Team to help you analyze your business and prepare for disruptive change.

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