Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption – Working Voices

This book stood out for us because it states clearly the three-part journey that a business needs to go through in order to reinvent itself, stay current and of value to its customers. Part one requires to live and breath the mindset of change and turn it into habit; part two describes the path to change by articulating a compelling reason for change, painting an inspiring vision of reinvention and aligning all processes and resources towards it; part three is all about execution and fostering the strategies, behaviours and leadership styles which can make it work.

Executive Summary

Turn the change mindset into habit:

  • Expect change, anticipate the possible destruction of your job or industry, and prepare for it. To survive, make changes before you must.
  • The speed of change in your organization must exceed the speed of external change.
  • Determine whether the benefits of change or reinvention outweigh the costs.

Pave the path for change:

  • Articulate your “Focus,” stating a compelling reason for change
  • Create an inspiring vision of what you or your organization will look like following reinvention.
  • “Align” the tasks, tools and resources you need.
  • Plan “Execution”
  • Determine the behaviors and strategy needed to carry it out.
  • Identify the organization’s leaders and leadership styles to accelerate change.
  • Look for open-mindedness, curiosity, determination and a willingness to listen.

The New “Table Stakes”

No job, business or industry is immune from disruption. Cab drivers face Uber, algorithms replace “wealth managers,” “drones” displace soldiers and “artificial intelligence” invades white-collar professions. New jobs and industries will emerge. Prepare to take advantage of them.

Surviving the “Age of Disruption” successfully requires acknowledging a state of constant change, anticipating professional disruption, building change skills, and acting quickly through personal and business reinvention.

Leadership is the single most important factor in the reinvention formula

“Global Shockwaves”

The era of profound, rapid change may have begun in 1981, when Japanese cars began disrupting the American auto industry. Since then, other global shockwaves include the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the emergence of the World Wide Web in 1996 and the global recession of 2008. Between 1981 and 1990, only two shockwaves occurred; since then, society has faced more than one seismic event every two years. “Leaders of change espouse big, bold visions. They work both formal and informal channels to reach others to create a guiding coalition that will bust up inertia and bureaucracy.”

Nearly half of global shockwaves emanate from technology. Moore’s Law – that computer processing power doubles every two years – has held true for the past 50 years.

Lessons from History: Amundsen and Scott

In the celebrated 1911 race to the South Pole, Norwegian Roald Amundsen faced off against English explorer Robert Scott. They were very different men. Scott avoided self-education. Amundsen experimented and sought new ideas. Scott held himself apart from his crew.

Amundsen consulted his men and shared his dinner table with the rank and file. Amundsen spent winters in the Canadian high Arctic, learning from indigenous tribespeople. Amundsen took sleigh dogs on his ship; Scott took ponies. Amundsen supplied his crew with animal furs for warmth; Scott gave his team wool garments. The hooves of Scott’s ponies sank deep into the Antarctic snow, and he and his men eventually froze to death. Amundsen’s dogs ran across the snow’s surface. His men reached the pole more than a month ahead of their doomed competitors.  

Like Scott, many other well-known people and firms failed to adapt to – or refused to see – change. Swissair, once the darling of the airline industry, snubbed the trend toward alliances and is no more. BlackBerry once seemed invincible in the corporate smartphone market, yet with astonishing speed, it collapsed, having failed to react to the shift toward touch-screens. Such “blindness” is the single biggest “root cause” of organizational failure.  

“The Six Deadly Blindfolds”

Organizations and their leaders often deliberately blind themselves to reality. They fail to see what almost everyone else sees clearly. They wear one or more of the following six deadly blindfolds:

  1. “Arrogance”– Pride makes leaders overconfident. Initial success impairs their sight.
  2. “Negative feedback not acknowledged here” Organizations and people who don’t listen often suffer the same fate as Robert Scott.
  3. “Dismissing competitors’ success”– Despite its rival’s decade of astonishing success, Microsoft attributes Apple’s success to luck.
  4. “We know what’s best for the customer” – Listen to your customers and employees; don’t assume you know what’s best for them.
  5. “Believing problems don’t exist” – For 10 years, General Motors was aware of but failed to deal with bad ignition switches. More than 40 people died as a result.
  6. “Avoiding the unavoidable” – By the time Greece defaulted on its IMF loans in 2015, it had spent decades lavishing benefits on workers while failing to collect many taxes.

“Professional success increasingly favours the leaders who display a combination of four key hallmarks: curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. Curiosity is the most important.”

Do you act with curiosity and keep an open mind, or willingly blind yourself? Do you try new ideas and technologies early and seek improvement? Or do you approach trends and tools more cautiously – as an early follower?

Set Out Your “Buoys”

Get in front of change like people who surf giant waves. Extreme surfers learn about the size of incoming waves days ahead of time by listening to reports based on data from offshore buoys. When big waves start forming, surfers arrive within hours.  Like surfers, leaders need buoys that act as early information systems. The best organizations have leaders who read prodigiously and monitor trends.

“The ability to reinvent yourself and reinvent your organization will be one of the most important competencies to master in the 21st century…having the ability to reinvent may simply become the price of admission to play in today’s global game of business.”


In 2007, the Walt Disney Company faced problems with long lines and poor organization in its parks. CEO Bob Igor overhauled the parks’ customer experience to the tune of about one billion dollars.

“Resilience…is a key attribute of successful reinventors. Being resilient is the ability to overcome speed bumps or colossal setbacks.”

Today, Disney guests wear wristbands that interact with “hundreds of thousands” of sensors throughout the parks. Disney knows where people are and anticipates bottlenecks. It creates diversions to draw visitors where it wants them to go, and allows costumed characters to throw spontaneous birthday celebrations for kids while addressing them by name. Disney’s revamp reduced wait times by one-third while greatly increasing the number of daily visitors. The company’s rewards include greater customer satisfaction and higher revenues.  

The Formula for Success

Reinvention should follow a process that integrates the art of change management with the science of systems. The formula for success includes these elements:

  1. “Dissatisfaction” – dissatisfaction with the status quo drives change. Bob Igor understood that the poor organization would destroy Disney. Elon Musk took on a moribund auto industry and forced it to change. But just because you see the need doesn’t mean other people will. Sometimes you must create the “need” to bring everyone on board.
  2. “Focus” – both people and organizations must find their focus. Identify precisely where you want to go. Use that vision for inspiration. Develop a strategy to get there. When Britain faced annihilation in 1940, Winston Churchill focused its citizens on being determined to fight to the last. His speeches and vision inspired Great Britain to resist. Make sure everyone knows his or her task and future in the new organization.
  3. “Alignment”  Dive into the details (budgets, people, processes, scheduling) to execute your strategy and realize your vision. Big change can overwhelm people and processes, so break the process into steps. Break the big goals into smaller ones, connect them and seek feedback from your team.
  4. “Execution”  Look for new ways to do things, experiment and keep an open mind. Confront accepted doctrine. Examine personal behaviours, habits and organizational culture. Talk with your team, managers and leaders to collect behavioural best practices. Articulate precise and “tangible” behaviours so everyone knows what to do. Invest in skills and tools.
  5. “Leadership” – No person or organization succeeds without strong leadership. Great leaders multiply and accelerate available resources. They don’t motivate through fear or coercion. They attract willing followers and spur people to commit. Scan your organization for styles and approaches that work, and then use these strategies to propel your reinvention. Look for leaders with a positive mind-set for change – people who demonstrate curiosity and a willingness to abandon “old thinking.” Look for leaders with “competence.” You want people who know what they stand for, know their strengths, have a “vision” of the future and “champion” reinvention.

The Cost of Change

Sometimes the cost of change exceeds the value. Track your costs, list them and weigh them against what you hope to achieve. Calculate the cost of change, including everything from tangible assets to the risk to “relationships and reputation.” Be clear if your total estimated costs outweigh your total estimated benefit.

The “Reinvention Road Map”

To reinvent yourself or your business, you need a plan, a process and “systems thinking.” When you reach a stage of clear organization-wide dissatisfaction, develop a compelling vision for change. Make that your focus. Put the right people and resources in the right places to get it done. Articulate the behaviors and tasks needed to get results. Promote and reward execution. Make sure your road map aligns with what you hope to achieve. Big change and radical reinvention consume enormous energy and resources. Protect your “work-life balance” during your change initiative. Those who are the most involved will work harder and longer than normal; encourage everyone to schedule down time.

About the authors: Shane Cragun and Kate Sweetman share a global consulting practice. They offer self-assessment resources at

We hope that you have found this summary useful. If the ideas resonate, and you would like to explore how they can be implemented in your organisation, let’s meet and talk.

You can see our programme which we have used as a basis to co-create bespoke transformation journeys with our partners and sail them as successfully as possible through their change trajectory.


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