THE DISRUPTIVE INFLUENCER WHO HELPED US ALL FLY
Become a positive disruptive influencer today.
by Todd Mitchem (excerpt from his book, YOU DISRUPTED, Seizing the life you want by shaking, breaking and challenging everything)
We all have tremendous value, ideas, and roles to play. No one is less than anyone else. Some of the most important ideas and solutions on Earth came from someone on the team other than the leader. You may not have noticed earlier in this book when I mentioned the sister of the Wright brothers to whom we owe the gift of flight. That was no accident. I wanted you to understand that she had a huge role as a Disruptive Influencer, which sparked the next phase of her brothers’ adventure and ultimately gave us the ability to fly. Many people are aware of the exploits and experiments of the Wright brothers. They worked tirelessly at Kitty Hawk to attempt winged flight. What you may not know is, like most entrepreneurs, their first experiments did not yield the results they had desired. They returned home to Dayton, Ohio, defeated and feeling like all hope was lost.2
Just after the brothers returned home, Wilbur received a letter from Octave Chanute, president of the Western Engineering Society, asking if he would speak at a meeting of the First Flight Society. Below is an excerpt of what happened next, from Dr. Richard Stimson, a member of that society.
A discouraged Wilbur intended to refuse the invitation after the poor results at Kitty Hawk. But Katharine intervened and talked him into accepting the invitation. She thought it was a great opportunity to expose the relatively unknown Wilbur to the aeronautical community. She even helped Wilbur prepare for the speech.
She made sure that Wilbur’s appearance would make a good impression. She substituted Wilbur’s baggy suit with one of Orville’s. Orville, unlike Wilbur, had a reputation as a sharp dresser.
The speech was well received and served to bring Wilbur out of his funk. Reenergized, Wilbur and Orville decided to find out why the glider didn’t behave as predicted by published engineering data. This led them to design and build a wind tunnel in which they tested some 200 wing configurations. Their test results enabled them to correctly calculate lift and drag, leading to the design of an efficient wing. All of this was made possible because of Katharine’s intervention.
You see, the Disruptor is only one person and, without the power of a Disruptive Influencer, the Disruptor cannot keep the engine running. Sometimes all he or she needs is a little spark from the Disruptive Influencer. We all have a role to play—you just have to decide which one fits the situation at hand.
WHAT A DISRUPTIVE INFLUENCER IS NOT
As I mentioned before, many people confuse disruption with destruction. In this chapter, I want to take it a step further and help you to understand that destruction is taking action out of anger or frustration and then destroying people or ideas around us. Destroying people or ideas in the form of gossip, hostile words, and judgment is a fruitless effort for people who truly want to live a full life. If you have an idea that is a solution to a problem, you can use the principles of disruption to take charge and constructively solve at hand without causing harm. need more destruction, bullying behaviors, and overall angst. What we do need is disruption, connection, and true problem solving brought about through cooperation.
You can see the impact of destructive behavior or disruption in our society. I once observed a company led by very passionate, yet often destructive, founders. While these founders felt like trailblazers, renegades, and pioneers who were disrupting their industry, they were actually the opposite; they were very destructive in the ways that they treated the industry, and especially their employees. They could have fostered an environment in which the cannabis culture and business merged and created a respectful environment, where the team could be allowed to bring ideas forward, take action on those ideas, and ultimately feel empowered to enjoy their own solutions. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The consequences of a stifled culture and ideas were painful to watch. Many employees would either walk out of a meeting in tears or simply quit. Regardless of the excitement of this start-up’s success, the agony of rude leaders who were not at all thoughtful about their approach to running a team stifled creativity, discouraged new ideas, and stagnated everyone’s potential success. While this company has survived, barely, it is wrought with negativity to this day. The sad part is that the people running an organization like this may find commercial success and, sadly, we often only use commercial success as a metric. But commercial success is only one part of a company; the best companies that build longevity are filled with happy, fulfilled team members.
You need to remember this lesson when you begin to engage in a more disruptive way of thinking. You must be respectful and kind to those around you. Disruption becomes destruction only if the Disruptor acts out, argues, and fights, instead of simply sharing or helping to implement ideas.
HOW TO APPLY IT
Add value, not just opinion.
When engaging in your work or personal life, remember to reset your frame of mind by asking, “How can I help?” This simple question will pivot you away from the negative, self-serving mindset and toward helping the idea or solution come to fruition. When you hear an idea, do you think the idea is actually stupid, or are you mad because someone else spoke up and offered an idea? Before you jump in and offer your input about someone else’s thoughts, ask yourself, “Am I just criticizing them, or am I truly adding value and input to the idea to make it better? ”The latter will gain you the respect and support you need to truly grow while giving you control over the one person you can control . . . you.
Challenge for the positive.
To be an effective Disruptive Influencer, you will need to start asking better questions internally instead of letting your negative inner naysayer come out. The naysayer inside you serves no value. Instead, when you’re about to speak up and share your influence, first internally ask yourself, “What can go right? ”This puts you in a hyper-positive mode. Whatever people around you are saying and doing, this one internal question can rev up your disruptive power in a way you never imagined.