Beyond Disruption


Beyond Disruption: Thriving via Empathy and Community

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Disruption is no longer a stranger – it is part of our way of being in this world. 2020 was a year like no other, with at least four major crises happening simultaneously: a global pandemic, an economic meltdown, the racial justice reckoning, and a tumultuous U.S. election where trust and the integrity of our democratic institutions nearly hit the breaking point.

All of this was layered on top of the ongoing, existential climate crisis. And each of these crises has been both exacerbated and at times ameliorated by the ongoing fortifying effect of technological change. I think we can agree that disruption is too measured a description for what we saw in 2020. Perhaps shock, or something in the earthquake/tsunami metaphor range, is more appropriate.

Much has already been said about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the way we live, how we work, and how we relate with each other. Organizations and people have begun to adapt to the post-COVID world (if such a thing will ever exist). But the past year – which was really just a crescendo of all the dynamics that had been building for a decade – had a profound impact on many people’s psyches. There are still uncertainties and deep yearnings that need to be addressed and questions about how organizations can better connect with people to help. While there are significant hurdles we need to overcome, there is also hope and opportunity.

Our Perspectives and How We Can (Continue to) Help

GrowthWorks has always been about helping organizations innovate, grow and thrive amidst disruption. We are truly about helping to facilitate positive change, which not too coincidentally matches how I would articulate my own sense of purpose. Imbued with this organizational mission, we have been in reflective conversation about what has changed, where the world is going, what organizations will need to survive and thrive, and how we can help.

In particular, we have been asking ourselves whether our core idea – that combining foresight (i.e. a map of emerging change, its impact, and opportunities it presents) and insight (deep understanding about how needs will evolve in that changing world) – is still valid.

I wanted to share with you some of our preliminary thinking on this subject:

  1. Foresight remains critical. Imagining the future can be a daunting challenge, particularly since it is a moving target that shifts at warp speed. But we cannot keep that from doing the work necessary to imagine the scenarios and possibilities, how they might affect us, and how we can seize the opportunities they present. Working only in the now means you risk blowing in the wind like sagebrush – maybe sooner rather than later. Foresight can help avoid that fate.
  2. Elevate Insight to Empathy and Heart-Centeredness. The yearning I spoke of earlier – for belonging and connection, for security and peace of mind, for purpose and meaning – calls for a deeper understanding of customers and stakeholders that goes beyond just insights. It means understanding emotion and almost soul-level perspective on what people long for. And it means being heart-centered – making choices consistent with your values and recognizing that feelings are valid inputs that complement learning generated by proof-point analysis. This blending of the heart with the brain (and sometimes leading with it!) can add value in the consultant-client relationship, and in turn, help build the client/brand-customer relationship as well.
  3. From Me to We – the role of Community. Ultimately, most people want to feel part of something bigger that goes beyond themselves. But the truth is that to survive and thrive in an uber-connected world (where, ironically, we often feel disconnected), organizations need to build and nurture communities of not just customers but also other groups and businesses – even those with whom they may have traditionally competed. Success in the coming years and decades will be about building a collaborative ecosystem where we each play our role in supporting the broader community of people we serve.

Where We Go From Here

So what does all this mean – in concrete terms? We believe that the three ingredients described above are central to growth, prosperity, and fulfillment for organizations and those who lead them. In the coming days and weeks, we’d like to share with you our latest thinking on each of these three topics: why each is important, how they might show up for businesses and other organizations, and how we are addressing them in our work at Growthworks.

Here’s a preview on that last point:

  1. Foresight – we are expanding our efforts at understanding the future and its impact on organizations (and people) through enhanced methods for picking up weak signals that may indicate upcoming disruptions and synthesizing impact/potential opportunities.
  2. Empathy and Heart-Centeredness – we are integrating new ways to understand deep human emotion and transform that understanding into opportunity and actionability. This work includes new AI technology and also a redoubled effort to bring a heart-centeredness to our clients, adding value to the relationship, and providing the tools for them to do the same with their own customers.
  3. Community – we will continue to help our clients develop a deeply loyal, connected ecosystem of customers and stakeholders. But we also must be increasingly focused on sharing our own community (e.g. our GrowthHub™ of experts and futurists) as inspiration for clients as they seek new paths for growth. We are also expanding our tools to help clients find other like-minded and interested organizations for beneficial partnerships and collaboration.

So, that’s enough for now. I just wanted to give you all a glimpse into where we are moving – and moving quickly. We will share more on each of these topics and how bringing them together really is the secret sauce we bring to engagements. And I promise we will turn this into practical insights you can put into action within your organizations.

2020 may have left us feeling shocked, but we also see wonderful possibilities and a chance for all organizations (and people) to make a difference in this rapidly changing world. We’ll share our journey and invite you to connect with us about your own.

Onward to an exciting tomorrow! Much more to come.

Phil Roos

About The Author

Former CEO.