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“Disruption redefined” – why business is ready for the CDO

This article was originally posted on 12 June 2013.

This article introduces the idea of the CDO or Chief Disruption Officer.  The rationale is that boards and executive teams increasingly need someone specifically tasked with disturbing the status quo and responding to the call to “disrupt or be disrupted”.

While there’s no doubt organisations need to find a way of keeping disruption squarely on the leadership team’s agenda, I’m not sure that this is the best way to do it other than in a limited range of circumstances.

Experience with similar issues such as innovation and transformation shows that once responsibility for something so fundamental is loaded onto the shoulders of a single person you often find other members of the leadership team assuming it’s not their role and behaving accordingly.  The result is often isolation of the person holding the role, dysfunction and a lack of any real progress.

While I think there’s a case for naming a member of the executive or board as “disruption champion” or even “CDO” my view is that it’s absolutely essential that accountability be shared right across the team.  The issues and risks are too profound not to be owned by the CEO, Chairman and everyone on the exec team and board.

I suspect that in the months and years ahead, lots of organisations will appoint CDOs and assume they’ve dealt with the challenge of disruption – tick that off the list and move on to the next item.  There are real dangers in doing that.  Disruption is a big deal and it needs a much more thoughtful and considered response in terms of both accountability and action.  It’s great to have disruption on the executive agenda but appointing a CDO as a quick fix is not the way to go.

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