Are You Ready for Disruption?

Are You Ready for Disruption? | Ryan EstisThis week, I watched late-night cable news pundits speculate on why Jeff Bezos would scoop up The Washington Post for pocket change (less than 1% of his net worth). As I watched, I couldn’t help but wax nostalgic about the glory days of the newspaper industry and how much times have changed

I worked for an ad agency that relied (too heavily) on print classified advertising as a primary revenue stream for years. Those were fun times. The sales came easily, but you could see the end – from a mile away. It didn’t sneak up on my agency or on the newspapers. We had time to reinvent. We had great relationships with category-leading brands as customers. We had a core group of talented sales, creative and account professionals. Unfortunately, all of those strengths still aren’t enough to compete in the new economy.

Our downfall? We lacked vision. We didn’t make the really big, bold breakout moves required. We had little fail tolerance and next to no experience at real innovation. When the newspaper industry started folding, we got crushed. You know the drill: layoffs, zero investment in the future, and the best talent exiting the building.

Category disruption kills companies. Category disruption changes lives. The cycle of disruption is shortening and coming to an industry near you.

5 ways to prepare yourself for disruption:

  1. Ask yourself the tough questions. What if your primary revenue stream was cut in half? What if you lost your largest customer? What if you were handed a pink slip tomorrow? It helps to have a little “productive paranoia” and game plan the next series of moves. It’s worth considering how to build a better version of what you have today. If your business went away, would you be missed?
  2. Commit to constant reinvention. When the world changes, we have to change with it. The cycle time for transformation and category disruption is growing much shorter. Managing the daily grind and creating something new at the same time is hard work, but it’s work that is now required to stay ahead of the curve.
  3. Invest in sales. The next customer or order is the lifeblood of any business. It’s why top sales performers are paid at a premium. Seven years of declining revenue (at The Washington Post) isn’t a symptom of a problem, it’s a death march. Don’t have sales growth? Get all hands on deck to implement corrective action ASAP.
  4. Listen to your customers. Customers determine your value in the marketplace, which is why it pays to listen closely and iterate in concert with the needs of the customer. Is your value proposition deteriorating? Are your customers inside the Loyalty Loop? Loyal customers will help you adapt, evolve, innovate and grow.
  5. Act now. Can you see change coming? Don’t wait until it’s too late to respond. The time to start preparing for disruption is now.

The good news is that disruption represents opportunity. Professionally, it’s been the very best thing that ever happened to me. The business I am building today couldn’t have existed in the good old newspaper glory days. There were too many barriers to entry. Those barriers are gone. Now, I have access to the marketplace. I can compete with the biggest and best training companies in the world on the strength of my ideas and network. That is new. During periods of significant transformation, new opportunities arise in abundance.

Are you ready for disruption?

Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sales people and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.

Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

Good ideas can come from anywhere.  The challenge is creating an environment that invites people to contribute their very best thinking in a way that drives the performance of the business.

How successful is your company at tapping into the collective intelligence and imagination of employees?

That question is top of mind for many executives today.  I’ll be speaking on the subject of business performance at more than 70 conferences and corporate events in 2013 and managing change and innovation will be near the top of just about every agenda.

For good reason.  The world is changing fast and our challenges have become increasingly complex.  According to the 2012 IBM CEO Study:

“CEOs have a new strategy in the unending war for talent. They are creating more open and collaborative cultures – encouraging employees to connect, learn from each other and thrive in a world of rapid change. Collaboration is the number one trait CEOs are seeking in their employees, with 75 percent of CEOs calling it critical.”

It makes sense in theory, but isn’t always easy to put into practice.  Collaboration can bump up against all kinds of obstacles in in large, complex organizations.  I teach a course on Collaborative Leadership. and I make every attempt to take on the tension that results from trying to work together while balancing the new pace of business and pressure to perform.  In 2012, I had the good fortune of working with a customer who offered a compelling case study on change and innovation amid complexity.

That customer is AT&T. This 136-year-old company takes innovation seriously, and I’ve had the good fortune of meeting leaders across their business tackling challenges and change head on.  How are they rethinking AT&T? Here are three ways.

They have a place to collaborate.

AT&T Foundry. These are innovation centers where venture capitalists, developers and startups can get a meeting at AT&T, and move through a fast-pitch process that takes only 10 to 15 minutes. AT&T’s centers in Plano, Texas, Ra’anana, Israel and Palo Alto, Calif., have played host to more than 1,000 pitches. This video offers a little more insight into the foundry concept.

They have a way to bring the best ideas forward.

The Innovation Pipeline (TIP). This is a crowdsourcing and collaboration tool, designed to tap the collective imagination of employees. Ideas grow, get refined and enhanced – and the best ideas get turned into real products, applications and services for our customers.  Employees suggest products, services and even processes that will improve the company, and their peers get to vote them up or down.  With TIP, employees vote on the 10 best suggestions every quarter and those are presented at a fast-pitch session. Three receive funding from AT&T’s own angel funds. To date, more than 22,000 ideas have been generated, with 50 items patented and 17 services launched.

They involve the customer.

AT&T is taking a new approach to “bring the brand to life” inside it’s new, first ever flagship store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.  Complete with App Tenders,  an Experience Platform, and Lifestyle Boutiques, the experience was most certainly a leap of innovation and something a customer might not initially expect from AT&T.  That is exactly the point.  Take a video tour of the store.

How are you rethinking your business? 

Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sellers and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.

Making New Year’s Resolutions for Impact in 2013

I received an e-mail this morning inviting me to join the Resolution Revolution.  I’m all in.  I have been writing about resolutions for a few years.

Resolve 2010
Accelerate 2011
Breakthrough 2012

Notice a pattern developing?  The resolution theme this year is Impact 2013.

In doing a little resolution research it seems that most resolutions fail.

I know.  I have been there.

I missed on my 2012 health/wellness resolution.

I believe two factors contributed to my miss:

-A poorly designed resolution.
-A poor system for execution against the objective.

I’ll be making adjustments to both of those flaws for Impact 2013, and I will happily share my five keys for making New Year’s resolutions become reality.

Be Specific: Eating healthy and exercising regularly is the #1 New Year’s Resolution.  Getting in shape is a great idea, but it doesn’t hold up so well as a resolution simply because it isn’t specific enough.  If health and wellness are on your 2013 to do list be more specific by writing down exactly what change you want to accomplish and when. Start from a position of intelligence that includes critical information such as your percentage of body fat and BMI so you can measure progress toward a clearly defined target. Yes, you need a system of measurement.  Good news is that there is an app for that.

Get Help:  Going at it alone is tough for any major life change initiative.  Personally, when it comes to health and wellness I know I need a support system to get results.  Enter the workout partner.  This was a big change I made mid-2012, and it has accelerated my results.  Making the commitment to show up on time and having some built in competition are personal triggers that help me work harder.  I have no problem exercising.  My problem is getting up an hour early and getting to the gym.  Having support (someone waiting for me) where I am my weakest is critical to my success.  To accomplish something of significance you have to enlist support from the people in your life.

Time Management: Want to read more books?  Schedule reading time on the calendar.  Hate to miss a workout?  Schedule every workout into the calendar. A change in output usually requires a shift in how we manage our time.  This is often where breakdowns occur.  My suggestion is to schedule the work required to execute on the resolution and treat it as protected time in your calendar.  I traveled over 100,000 miles in 2012 and that was the warm up act for 2013.  If I am going to hit the Impact 2013 targets for health & wellness I have to schedule time to make it happen, even when I am on the road.

Recognize Milestones:  It is easier to throw in the towel when a big goal seems overwhelming and so far out of reach.  That is why it helps to break big objectives down into a  series of mini-milestones so you can actually get into the practice of celebrating progress.  This offers some reinforcement that you are on the right track and can provide momentum toward meaningful change.

Stay Committed:  Failure and setbacks don’t define our success nearly as much as our ability to recover.  Don’t let adversity and setbacks deter you from staying committed.  We all know life has a funny way of interrupting the plans we make.  This is going to hold true in 2013.  You will get off track and I would suggest to simply factor that into the plan and hit reset when it happens.  No matter what comes our way we have the resolve to recover and get back on track.

Change is hard work.  Changing habits and personal behavior is some of the hardest work we can do.

That is why it is so rewarding when we actually do accomplish what we set out to do!

Be Humble.  Stay Hungry.  Always Hustle.  Wishing you a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!

Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sellers and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.

Finding Meaningful Work

I had a spectacular holiday that included love, gratitude, plenty of red wine and way too much good food. Coming home is always a wonderful way to hit reset, and I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back to work.

I finished two books over the weekend.  “Turning Pro” and “The $100 Startup” (in that order).

If creating something new and turning it into a steady paycheck is a fantasy you’ve long considered, I’d recommend both books.  “Turning Pro” is “about the transition from wannabe/part-time/half-assed, “aspiring” artist and entrepreneur … to the real thing, a working pro.”  “The $100 Startup” is a practical, how-to guide for finding “a life of adventure, meaning and purpose — and earning a good living.”  The book profiles people who are “rewriting the rules of work” and provides “the most valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment.”

The books offer actionable advice and serve as a prompt to make the move from idea into execution.  That first step forward often involves conquering fear and our own self-imposed limitations.  I am asked questions about that very specific inflection point every week, and it is precisely why I am recommending both books for anyone interested in making an inconvenient choice to become “who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and live out.”

The books also served to stimulate some fun conversations over the course of my weekend about passion, purpose, meaning and work.

We pretty well aligned around the notion that “meaning isn’t a first world problem – but a human challenge.”  In accepting the challenge to find meaning in our work, we move a step closer to fulfilling our potential and making a more significant, enduring contribution.  That realization has been a more recent revelation for me, and it has completely transformed both my approach to work and perspective on the future.

In a perfect end to our weekend we were winding down Sunday with “60 Minutes” and one of the segments profiled Free The Children.  The mission of this charitable organization is “to create a world where all young people are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change.”  They have started a movement that is making a difference and empowering children that otherwise might have felt powerless to effect change.  The knowledge that we can effect change and change our own lives in the process is a worthwhile lesson to learn at any age (the segment is worth watching).

If more meaning and fulfillment from work is a personal quest, there is no time like the present.  You may also be able to cash in on that passion. Many of the traditional barriers to entry no longer exist and long term career planning is fading fast.  This is becoming the era of the Change Agent, where adaptability, creativity and risk are rewarded.

How empowering would it be if you were free to achieve your full potential as an agent of change?

If the question resonates, you’ll enjoy the reading and what happens next.  Turning Pro is hard work but worth it.

What Happens Next

I couldn’t write fast enough.  I was on the edge of my seat and wanted to capture every ounce of content.  I had never experienced anything like this.

A Jim Rohn seminar.

I was a kid fresh out of college and the only reason I attended was because a friend procured a free ticket and the event included an open bar.  Matt Foley was a decent representation of what I thought about “motivational speaking”… I was closed.

I was also a kid on the verge of being fired from my first real job.  Nine months in and not a single sale closed.  The truth is I wasn’t even close.  I had some raw talent. No skills.

Twenty minutes into it Jim had me locked in.  Twenty years later I still have my notes.  That night changed my life.

During his talk Jim casually referenced two books about success, Think & Grow Rich and The World’s Greatest Salesman.  He paused and then said: “The information in those two books can help you alter the course of your life.  However, as sure as I am standing here, I know that for about every one hundred people in the room only four of you will actually read both of those books. That is a choice each one of us gets to make.” He added, “The difference between where you are today and where you’ll be five years from now will be found in the quality of books you’ve read and people you’ve met.”

I read those books.  The first two books in the success/business genre I ever read.  I haven’t stopped.

When the world changes we need to change with it.  The world is changing a lot faster today than it did twenty years ago and those principles are still relevant.  In fact, our access to high impact information has exploded.  What we do with the information is still a choice each one of us gets to make.

Information, insight and ideas are important.  What is actually way more important is what happens next.

The way I close almost every talk I give today is a tribute to Jim Rohn and his insistence that we “go do something” when presented with new ideas.

Take Action Now.  The enclosed video is an excerpt from a keynote presentation I recently delivered in Orlando. The idea still works for me.

I regret never actually sending Jim a note sharing the impact he had on my life before his passing.  I hope someday I might be able to advance that gift and have the same profound effect on someone else.


Take Action Now from Ryan Estis on Vimeo.

A Healthy Addiction To Change

Discussing scope of work details over dinner is never a bad thing, particularly when the setting is Newport Beach.  In doing so last week I also enjoyed a very good lesson on leveraging change as a catalyst for career growth and brand transformation, even amid brutal economic uncertainty.

Aleya Chattopadhay is a Change Agent who also happens to be the Chief Marketing Officer for Brookfield Residential Property Services. That means brand strategy supporting over 50,000 real estate professionals who process over $80 billion of real estate annually out of more than 1,600 locations.  Big job with a brand portfolio that has grown significantly through strategic acquisition during the last few years.  Bold moves that align with her own approach to business perfectly.

During the great recession her career arc resembled “a hockey stick.”  No sitting on the sidelines playing it safe. Today, she is perfectly positioned to put her stamp on the reinvention of this new kind of Real Estate company.  How did she get there so fast (as in warp speed fast)?  Her success story includes sound advice for anyone excited about the opportunity that exists when thinking differently about a business, brand, strategy or career.

In her own words she is “addicted to change.”  We laughed about that but the lesson includes adopting a mental framework that confronts and conquers fear, consistently.  Constantly stretching, she acknowledged that being uncomfortable means growth is happening. In the last three years alone she has worked (and lived) in India, London and just recently relocated to Newport Beach.  Her career ascent continued with each stop.  She is uniquely qualified to deal with the accelerated pace of change because she embraces it as the next opportunity.  Aggressively.  That has included plenty of personal sacrifice and a bit of professional fearlessness.  That is the hard work that gets rewarded in a time where talent and global experience trumps tenure (or title).

We talked about the realities of the great recession.  She acknowledged the challenges of growth in a time of global decline.  However, she made a resolute decision not to participate in the “recession in her own mind”.  Essentially, she decided to sit this one out.  For her that meant focusing on the things she could control and the opportunity to accelerate her own growth even if the path meant going around the world and back.  That might seem easy sitting in Newport Beach now.  It wasn’t.  But it was worth it.  Not just for the next job but for the opportunity to go places, meet people, collect meaningful experiences and pass another test.

We also talked about the importance of fit.  “Fit for purpose.  Fit for people.”  Contributing to a work effort that you believe in, that makes a difference, that has significance beyond your own self interests matters.  That is when and where you’ll most likely do your best work.  It isn’t just the work but often how you are doing the work and who you are doing the work with that makes the experience meaningful.

The who part has a pretty profound impact.  The opportunity to work with (and for) people like Aleya challenge our own approach to change and transformation.  That is a gift we could all benefit from receiving.  Who is challenging your approach to transformation, change and growth in this new world of work?

Her approach may sound like common sense.  It is far from common practice.  Most people prefer to play it safe, settle in and work in the confines of the comfort zone.  That is why the Change Agent has an advantage.  Adaptation skills are highly coveted by progressive organizations looking to advance. I have every confidence that Aleya and the team are just getting started.

Should be fun to watch.

Change Starts With You

Today I will be teaching our course on Collaborative Leadership to a small group of executives.  The conversation will emphasize the evolution in leadership practices that drive performance across a large, complex, decentralized enterprise competing in an industry that is being completely reinvented.

Welcome to the future of work.

The objective will be to provide each executive with ideas thy can immediately leverage to impact the business.  Inspiration is nice but it isn’t good enough when you have to deliver a number and the end of the fiscal quarter is fast approaching.

I know the conversation will inevitably approach that BIG question I often consider the white elephant in the room:

Can I make a difference?

The answer to that question is yes.

There has never been a better time to insert yourself into the chaos, challenge the status quo, make bold choices and create meaningful, lasting change.  You don’t need permission to have influence or impact.

You just need to recognize that change starts with you.  Your decisions.  Your attitude.  Your actions.

Meaningful change often starts in a moment.  A decision followed by the resolve to stay the course.

That’s hard work.  Some Mangers and Leaders would prefer to hide. It’s easier that way.  Seems safer (perhaps it is in the short term).

It is also the most important work.  The work really worth doing.  So what you can you do?


Once you’ve decided here are a few ideas on where to start.


Pass the Sledgehammer

I glanced over at Don MacPherson.  He didn’t look much better than I was feeling.  A few minutes past 8:00 am we were both standing on an asphalt parking surface, barely able to catch our breath.  He handed me a sledgehammer and I heard TJ’s voice:

“10 more seconds…”

I wasn’t sure I was going to get the sledgehammer over my head but somehow I managed and for what seemed like an hour (but was probably closer to a minute) I pounded the sledgehammer into a large tire under the MN sun.   I know it sounds miserable.  It was.  I can’t wait to do it again.

Creating something new is hard work.  This endeavor might be more akin to sustaining something over time, but the idea is the same.

It requires doing things I would rather not be doing to get the outcome I desire.  It does seem counter intuitive.  Probably because it is.

Short term pain.  The barrier that makes it so easy to procrastinate or completely ignore what we know we should be doing today.

I know a few incredibly disciplined people that easily attack the hard, short term effort required to achieve extraordinary results.  I am not necessarily one of those people.  I have to trick myself into doing what must be done or that little voice of doubt might have me entering the procrastination zone or avoiding the hard work all together.

Here are a few tricks for doing the hard work that you absolutely don’t want to do but know must be done:

A Game Plan: You have to “plan your work, and work your plan.”  Plans change.  The ability to adapt to new circumstances is essential.  The notion that plans can change and need to be flexible isn’t a good reason not to plan at all. Begin with the end in mind.

A System of Accountability:  Being accountable to people you care about elevates your own sense of purpose and puts you in the right frame of mind to make meaningful progress toward results.  Going it alone gives you an easy way out.  The team effort provides a little pressure to do your part.  So, enlist some support for your work.  Offer your support in return. Hold people accountable.  Start with you.

Expertise:  Enlisting the ideas and information of the expert makes the work effort more efficient and helps you avoid mistakes. Coaching has been a catalyst for growth in my business and propelled my own professional development.  Expertise can also push you past your comfort zone and accelerate progress.  When I am working with TJ or Jane I work harder.  Coming out of pocket also elevates my personal commitment to showing up prepared to work.  Invest in you.

Execution: We are conditioned to search for the next big idea when so often an adjustment in our approach and personal discipline that will produce the desired outcome. Measure progress.  Manage for consistency.  If you want to accomplish a BIG thing personally or professionally it requires alignment of a lot of little things along the way.  Sometimes success simply comes down to effort and execution around the fundamentals.

Make it Interesting:  Big ideas and breakthrough moments often remain elusive the monotony of the routine.  So mix it up. Inspired experiences can translate into inspired thinking and action.  Also, pay very close attention to the people inside your circle of trust.  The people around us have enormous impact on our being.  How we think, act and experience the world around us.  New people bring forward new ideas, insights and perhaps the best opportunity to share, give, learn and grow.

The cycle to success can be a long, arduous process.  Momentum is required to finish the work.  We’ll likely face periods of feeling stuck, afraid, overwhelmed and quite mediocre. A time perhaps when the hard work might not seem worth it.

Give procrastination an adversary. Put right plan, process and people around you.

Pass the sledgehammer.

Saying vs Doing

The Monday Morning Quarterback has a lot of competition.

Hiding behind the screen gives the critic confidence.  Jumping on the bandwagon is a popular pastime and criticism is becoming a very crowded place.  When the work is easy, anyone can do it.

This can make the heckler angry.  The critic doesn’t like to be irrelevant. So they yell a little louder to cut through the noise.  Shock effect that doesn’t have a shelf life.

The better alternative?

Go do something that matters.  Create, develop, deliver, serve, support, help, risk, learn, grow, add, adapt, adjust, evolve…do!

The world needs your gifts. Your contribution.  Your art.

There is plenty of important work to go around.

There will always be people with an opinion watching from the sidelines and waiting to offer up their criticism.

Those willing to challenge the status quo, serve as a catalyst for change and do something remarkable often face the harshest criticism.

They also make the most meaningful impact.

Seems like the kind of work worth doing.

Inspired Living

A few years ago (at 38 years old to be precise) in the recess of my mind I knew I was facing a key inflection point and some important life choices.

Career.  Relationships.  The big stuff.  Change was imminent.

The little voice of doubt and insecurity we’ve all heard was growing louder.  The questions seemed overwhelming.

Will I pass this testCan I make a differenceWhat if…?

It was exactly during this moment of introspection (and indecision) a friend shared a little note of inspired thinking that read:

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid.

“You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab or shoot or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand.

“Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at 38 as you would be at ninety.

“And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

{Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from the sermon “But, if Not” delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on November 5, 1967}

The right message at the right time.  I appreciated the thought and interpreted the intended personal challenge.  I hit print and have carried that piece of paper in my bag ever since.

Inspiration can come from a variety of sources.  It can come when we least expect it.  Often, it will arrive when we need it the most. A likely source of inspiration are the people around you.  Friends.  Family.  Colleagues. Co-Workers.  Collaborators. Working and spending time with people that are inspired, creating, contributing and taking bold steps forward is helpful, particularly when faced with an inconvenient choice or a more specific challenge.  The people around us have enormous impact on our being.  How we think, act and experience the world around us.

If you want to get Switched On it certainly helps to pay attention to people that embrace inspired living because it  is going to require your own inspired thinking first. Today as we recognize and honor the birth of activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy these 10 lessons serve as an inspirational reminder of the opportunity we all have to embrace change, confront challenges, make an impact and live the change we want to see in the world around us.


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