Six Insights for Intrapreneurs from “Disorganize”

Jonathan Anthony promises 99 actionable ideas for insights for intrapreneurs in his book “Disorganize.” Here aree my top six and three quotes I also found compelling.

Six Insights for Intrapreneurs from “Disorganize”

Disorganize by Jonathan Anthony Offers Insights for IntrapreneursJonathan Anthony was inspired to title his book “Disorganize” by the following observation by Peter Drucker:

“Entrepreneurship rests on a theory of economy and society. The theory sees change as normal and indeed as healthy. And it sees the major task in society–and especially in the economy–as doing something different rather than doing better what is already being done. That is basically what Say, two hundred years ago, meant when he coined the term entrepreneur. It was intended as a manifesto and as a declaration of dissent: the entrepreneur upsets and disorganizes. As Joseph Schumpeter formulated it, his task is “creative destruction.”

Peter Drucker in “Innovation and Entrepreneurship”

When we advise intrapreneurs we encourage them to focus on the “healthy change” as the end result not disorganization. In the same way that the surgeon’s purpose is not to make a patient bleed–although surgery often involves blood loss–but to heal them. But reasonable people can differ and part of this may just be an effort by Jonathan Anthony to be provocative.

I took away six good suggestions in this book:

  1. The future of work should be observable and narrated.
  2. Share is the new save.
  3. Confidence + curiosity = creativity
    (I think I can move forward, my progress is under my control. I have options here and I can add value
  4. Use “coffee dates” make connections with others in your organization
  5. Keep a list of “Frequently Unasked Questions.”
    This helps break up “group think” and can trigger difficult but necessary conversations.
  6. Do Things Need to Change?
    If yes, how can I help. (if no then wanting change is ego driven).

1. The future of work should be observable and narrated

People need to see what you are up to, so you can get rid of politics. Your work and ideas are then exposed and transparent. Next it needs to be explained and discussed; such that you can get the feedback you need to test, iterate, refine, and fail (forward).

Jonathan Anthony (@ThisMuchWeKnow) in “Disorganize

Simon Terry offers a somewhat more thorough perspective

Work Out Loud

Purposefully sharing work in progress helps drive collaboration in your organization. Collaboration will dramatically improve the effectiveness of work. Transparency of the work underway will help identify duplication, eliminate waste, maximize reuse and foster learning. Drawing out expertise and surfacing feedback is one of the fastest ways to drive the effectiveness of your work. Working out loud helps surface the networks that are most effective to your work. You may even discover more effective organisational designs and processes as you start to see the real work of the organization be surfaced.

Simon Terry in Five Ways to Make Work More Effective

I like Jack Stack’s perspective on this from “The Great Game of Business

“A business should be run like an aquarium, where everybody can see what’s going on–what’s going in, what’s moving around, what’s coming out. That’s the only way to make sure people understand what you’re doing, and why, and have some input into deciding where you are going. Then, when the unexpected happens, they know how to react and react quickly. ”

Jack Stack “The Great Game of Business

At a team level or in an early-stage startup, this is as important as it is in a larger organization. Another way to share your work is to use a “think aloud” approach. Think-aloud can be applied to shared problem-solving, coaching others, and understanding the user’s cognitive task model when debugging usability issues. For example, when asking a team member for help, you can verbalize the intermediate steps you take to analyze a problem or situation and evaluate potential solutions. Then, you can ask other team members to do the same so that you understand what they are thinking. Introverts may find this more challenging, but it’s helpful when learning new approaches, appreciating other perspectives, and coming to a working consensus.

2. Share is the new save

Share working drafts, but take care to present meaning before detail. Share an outline of the approach you are considering first, not a long rambling draft full of incomplete thoughts and grammatical errors. Once you have a first draft it’s time to solicit input, but I would run it through a spell checker / grammar checker first because concrete detailed-oriented may be distracted by small errors and not help with organizational and other high level issues.

3. Confidence + curiosity = creativity

Jonathan Anthony suggests three mindsets that help to promote creativity.

  • I think I can move forward
  • My progress is under my control.
  • I have options here and I can add value

4. Coffee dates make connections with others in your org

Anthony has two observations:

  • cross-fertilize, cross-functional, inter-disciplinary approaches cultivate teamwork and innovation
  • things are interesting at the intersections

I used to schedule breakfast dates, lunch dates, and coffee breaks with coworkers to get better acquainted and compare notes on challenges. When you feel behind, you can feel tempted to eat lunch at your desk and power on through. But I tried to resist the temptation to work heads down all day because I found that explaining challenges to others would clarify my thinking. They would offer perspectives that would open up new possibilities or allow me to realize I had added constraints on a possible solution that were unnecessary.

5. Keep a list of “Frequently Unasked Questions”

Jonathan Anthony suggest added two default questions to your after action or project retrospectives:

  1. What should we have asked ourselves last time to prevent problems?
  2. What could we have asked to unlock additional value?

These break up the “group think” of “everything is fine” (or “don’t rock the boat”). They may trigger difficult but necessary conversations. I like this checklist approach to helping a team avoid blind spots. In my experience if you make a mistake once and you are likely to make ti again unless you become explicit about detecting and avoiding it.

6. Do Things Need to Change?

He suggests you like hard at the reasons proposed for a change and ask if they are really compelling:

  • If yes, how can I help.
  • If no, then wanting change is ego driven.

Changes should provide more value for customers or at least not reduce the value delivered to customers while making life easier for employees or suppliers. Avoid changes driven by nostalgia–“this is the way we used to do it when I worked at X”–or aimed at a local improvement that will have spillover effects that lead to a net negative.

Three Good Quotes on Innovation

And here are three good quotes for intrapreneurs that Jonathan Anthony used as points of departure for suggested action:

“An innovation is something different that has impact.”
Scott Anthony in “Little Black Book of Innovation

“Insight is the opposite of predictable. Insights are disruptive. They come without warning, take forms that are unexpected, and open up unimagined opportunities. They are disorganizing. Insights disrupt progress reviews because they reshape tasks and even revise goals. They carry risks —unseen pitfalls that can get managers in trouble.”
Gary Klein in “Insights vs. Organizations

“There is a fundamental conflict between two very different ways of thinking. It is the conflict between curiosity and the resolve and focus that is necessary to solve problems. Curiosity, while it fuels and motivates, despite being utterly fundamental to the generation of ideas, in isolation just culminates in lots of long lists, perhaps some ideas, but alone that’s sort of where it ends.”
Jony Ive in his Nov-19-2018 speech accepting the Stephen Hawking Fellowship [see also UK Independent coverage]

Net Net

A book that’s a box of chocolates. It offers a number of actionable insights but I did not find the “disorganize” paradigm a useful framework for approaching intrapreneurial initiatives. It’s priced reasonably and written in clear language. Intrapreneurs are likely to find a number of useful suggestions for next steps to consider.

If you are in a startup that is working with an internal change agent–or relying on their success to help you move forward with their company–I think the suggestion to “work out loud” at least within an internal group of early adopters (co-conspirators) is helpful. In particular I would be candid about shortcomings and challenges and not make the path seem easier than it really will be for others. I would also probe for what’s motivating the change: is it based on need, or are you talking with someone who is perhaps driven by ego and a hoped-for personal outcome instead of a positive impact on the team, department, or company?

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