Is Your Organization Ripe for Disruption? 5 Tell-Tale Signs

Oct 29, 2021


American Management Association

Disruption can be a positive transformative force, infusing an organization with a fresh sense of purpose and renewed energy. Or it can destroy your business. The difference often comes down to whether leaders anticipate, prepare for, and welcome disruption—if not actively seek it out—or simply let disruption take them by surprise and then greet it with resistance.

As a business leader, how do you know when it’s time for a major, disruptive change? It’s not a skill that those in leadership positions inherently possess. To aggravate matters, all disruption comes with risk. And even when it’s essential to a company’s future, disruption can be stressful not only to stakeholders and employees, but also to customers. So, it’s important to be sure your organization is ripe for disruption before taking drastic action. And if the answer is yes, then it’s vital to act fast!

To help leaders gauge whether disruptive change is urgently needed and will ultimately benefit their business, American Management Association (AMA) has identified five signs to watch for:

  1. Complacency. We’re all familiar with the idiom, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Sometimes, complacency pervades an organization because everything is working just fine and dandy, and staffers and management are simply happy with the way things are. In such rare cases, though there’s always room for improvement, a shared sense of feeling complacent may not be a cause for concern. However, complacency can also be the result of arrogance. When staffers and management subscribe to the motto, “We’re the best and nobody can touch us,” then complacency is a problem. This attitude of superiority can have a dangerous lulling effect. An arrogant, untouchable workforce tends to minimize potential threats, becoming sluggish in reacting to competition. So, it may take disruption to wake and shake people up.
  2. Outdated technology. We all work in an increasingly digital global business world, driven by rapidly advancing technologies. In virtually every industry and sector, customers and clients expect state-of-the-art service, responsiveness, and results. Continuing to limp along on outdated technology is a major competitive disadvantage—and a glaring red flag that your organization is ripe for disruption.
  3. Customer frustration. If your company is working with outdated software, you may not have the software to invite, collect, and respond to customer ratings and reviews. Regardless, with the prevalence of social media and online forums dedicated to publishing crowd-sourced reviews of businesses, it’s easy to know when your customers are dissatisfied and frustrated. If there’s an opportunity for customers to jump to a less frustrating company, they’ll do so. A disruptive change in policy or processes could fix whatever frustrates your customers and keep them satisfied. They might even be inspired to post glowing reviews of your business.
  4. High prices—low value. For nearly every conceivable product and service, consumers have an array of options at their fingertips. No business can afford to offer high prices and low value. Other disruptors are waiting to win over your customers with higher quality and better value for lower prices. Why not disrupt your business before your competitors get the chance to pounce?
  5. Middlemen. If your company depends on some sort of broker, go-between, or intermediary to facilitate interactions or process transactions, it can add costs, typically in the form of commissions or fees, and slow things down. Cutting out the middleman can be just the disruptive change your business needs.

Even if you’re organization is thriving, it’s well worth your effort to learn to recognize the tell-tale signs that it might be time to disrupt business as usual. Sooner or later, this knowledge will come in handy–perhaps when you least expect it!

About AMA

American Management Association (AMA) is globally recognized as a leader in professional development. For nearly 100 years, it has helped millions of people bring about positive change in their performance in order to improve results. AMA’s learn-by-doing instructor-led methods, extensive content, and flexible learning formats are proven effective—and constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of individuals and organizations. To learn more, visit