The Eruption of Disruption

By John Blumberg, Andersen Alumnus and author of Return On Integrity (

Have you ever experienced that phenomenon when something new enters your life and you subsequently notice it everywhere? Like when you purchase a new car and you see your same make, model and color at most every red light! After graduation from college, I immediately started my career at Arthur Andersen. Just four weeks following my start date, I purchased a mustard yellow Volvo. And immediately, I began to see Volvos everywhere. Admittedly, not many were mustard yellow and there were good reasons for that!

Today, I don't see too many Volvos. Maybe there are fewer. More likely, because I don't currently drive one. I see a Nissan Altima at most every turn and in every parking lot. There are especially a lot of silver ones ... just like the one I drive! I loved my Volvo. And I would say I like my Altima proven by the fact it is my second one. Today, I might see one Altima right after another because I drive one.

Or because they are literally everywhere.

That happens too. You might have noticed this. You hear a phrase for the first time and then you hear it again and again ... and again! It used to be a phrase ... like "Are you kidding me?" ... or a word like "Exactly!" ... or going way back, do I dare say "cool" or "groovy!" The casual phrase I have noticed lately ... "it was a shit show." I heard it first in the early spring, then I heard it again two weeks later, then again one week later and now it feels like daily. Have you? Oh, you will now!

Consultants are notorious at adopting such trendy terminology. Initially kindled in one conversation, this jargon spreads like wild-fire among them. It could be a subconscious habit, a need to sound "cutting-edge" with clients ... or possibly just an abbreviated approach to more efficient conversation. Every now and then it goes beyond just terminology and evolves into a buzz concept that either names current reality or begins to create it ... or both. Disruption is one of those concepts that is both.

Welcome to the eruption of disruption!

Disruption is everywhere. Both the terminology and the reality. There was a time when change evolved quite slowly. I'm sure the turtle-pace of change didn't seem as such at the time. These historical changes typically reflected a modified version of the old ... a new model of what already existed. Disruption isn't change. Disruption erases the old with something completely new. Sometimes disruption is about doing things in new ways ... yet, real disruption is about seeing things in completely different ways. The "new way of doing" is merely the by-product of this disrupted insight.

Amid disruption, a "refresh" of most anything brings little value. This refresh feels like progress while nurturing the behaviors for falling further behind. A long-overused cliché of "rearranging the chairs on the Titanic" captures this.

With all the best intentions, this is precisely what most leaders (or more likely ... and unfortunately ... their designee) engage-in to address the culture of their organizations. This change creates new models of the old ... packaged in shiny initiatives of updated employee events, repackaged benefit programs, trendy clothing codes and restyled mission, vision, and values statements stenciled on freshly painted walls.

Amid seismic disruptions erupting in most every industry, organizations don't need to change their culture.

We need to disrupt how we see culture.

That disruption can only begin when we are willing to host a parade of elephants through some brutally honest conversations in both executive suites and boardrooms ... as well as in the cramped quarters of budding entrepreneurs. It involves looking out, looking around, and most importantly looking individually within. Disruption is always delightfully uncomfortable and sometimes acutely painful. If it's not, you can be sure you are refreshing an old culture and not in the midst of a culture disruption!

The perception of culture is temporarily changed with a forced set of new behaviors. The reality of culture is forever disrupted when we are willing to dig much deeper than we ever thought possible ... to see meaningful personal and organizational values that we never knew existed. These values are unshaken by the most profound disruptions and quite often fuel them. They also fuel a meaningful disruption in how we see culture to begin with.

The exponential speed of future disruptions won't require it. They will demand it!

John G. Blumberg is an Andersen Alumni, a national speaker and author of several books including his just released book, Return On Integrity: The New Definition of ROI and Why Leaders Need to Know It. It is available on Amazon and at major bookstores. You can connect with John at