• Rahul Kumar

Transforming from Within



By now everyone has probably read the Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. What he says essentially is that disruption happens before you know it, and you must disrupt yourself before it happens. In the good words of Jack Welch "change before you have to."

Being lucky enough to start the Digital Factory, Transdev's internal startup studio and incubator, I've realized quite a few things about disrupting from within and fostering the necessary change to transform.

  1. Find a godfather...one that grants requests on more than his daughters' wedding day. In all seriousness, for disruptive innovation to happen, you must have a champion (other than you). Someone who goes to bat for you knowing that you're trying to build the company of the future and be forward thinking enough to know that it may mean the end of the company of the present.

  2. Be evangelical...no, not in the pop up revival kind of way, but in the "having faith that you can do this" kind of way. This type of evangelism is contagious and is a lot more than just the "cautious optimism" we love to talk about. The more you truly believe in your cause, the more chances your cause has.

  3. Hire or train in your image...you aren't perfect, trust me I'm far from it, but you believe in your cause, and your team must also believe. This is not blind faith either, but you must empower them to make decisions, to take action, and own their projects. Giving your team a sense of "intrapreneurism", or someone on the inside who has the vision to build something new and innovative is critical to the success of what you will do.

  4. Throw away the HR manual on goal setting and evaluations...When I set goals for my team, I don't set "S.M.A.R.T." Goals, instead we collaboratively set three goals for each person. The first goal has to do with the team member, they must learn something themselves, and teach it to the team, and then collectively find a way to better the company through this knowledge. This idea of "You/We/Us" helps the individual, the team, and the company. It is this kind of help that changes culture much more than if they "changed thirteen tires a day instead of 12".

  5. Show me the money...resources are important, and you must have a dedicated pool. This can be a very small amount, but this is the affordable loss the company is willing to make to support your mission. Be creative about this, you cannot be known at the corporate slush fund, so no beer fridges in the kitchen. Work with your finance team to see if there is excess OPEX somewhere, or if there are learning or R&D grants that the company can apply for.

  6. Step outside the echo chamber...startups aren't just made of open space offices where hipsters ride ironically down the hallway drinking cold pressed coffee listening to Arcade Fire while stroking their recently oiled beards. They are also beacons of energy and life that could help inspire. Find some startups, or spend one day a month at an incubator and see how these guys function. It's no surprise that the combined valuation of startups in the Silicon Valley is higher than the GDP of Sweden (look it up).

  7. Follow and apply the 70/20/10 rule...this says, focus on your job 70% of the time, learn about your project and support other similar projects in the team 20% of the time, and for the remaining 10%: DO SOMETHING ELSE. Step way from the office, take hang gliding lessons (but get insured by your company first please). Yes, starting a company or initiative like this take a lot of time and work, and I'm suggesting you do the opposite, which is not work for a small portion of the time. But you see humans are wired to diversify our actions. We work best when our brains are stimulated, and there is no better downer than endless work. So, make a rule like go home early Fridays and go learn Creole (seriously. Do it. Best food ever).

  8. Be prepared to fail, but don't fear it...failure is probably the best learning tool. Many of our most used products were borne out of failure of some sort. What's important is that failure is like energy, it can neither be created or destroyed. Which means that failure always exists, before you and your project and after and is unavoidable. Knowing this, you must know that you will fail, as will the rest of us, but how we get up, learn and grow, is the critical part.

  9. Celebrate success...now I'm not saying go all John Daly on a Friday night (or a Tuesday morning) at the neighborhood Hooters, but savor the small victories in a big way, and the big victories in a bigger way.

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