As humans, I don’t think most of us really like the thought of disruption. Sure, it kind of sounds fun to disrupt someone else, but it feels a little different when someone is trying to disrupt you.

You’d be able to understand, then, if there was a little bit of apprehension for the people at Business Publications Corp. Inc. when we were told we had to take part in a disruption challenge. 

As it turns out, we had nothing to worry about.

Our company’s disruption challenge went something like this: Each team in the company came up with a topic on which it wanted feedback. Then every other employee in the company thought of a potential idea or solution to whatever challenge was posed. That meant each team came away with 20-plus ideas, big or small, that it could consider and possibly implement.

The benefits were twofold:

1) Each team, whether it was Business Record editorial, dsm sales or any other team in the company, came away with a fresh, outside perspective on its department.

2) Each employee got to think critically about departments other than the one he or she works in.

Though many of us were nervous at first, a really cool thing happened. We all learned from one another. The simplest of ideas from an outside perspective often sparked an “aha” moment for the people within the department.

The whole process, including lunch, took about two hours. It was two hours well-spent, and I expect the time invested will pay dividends. 

I hope BPC decides to do this, or a similar process, again in the future. If your business sees the benefit, here are some tips:

  • Encourage employees to spend time thinking about their ideas before the challenge begins. We had employees fill out cue cards with their ideas in advance.
  • Have an open mind. There’s no room for the phrase “That won’t work” in this process.
  • Remember that you don’t have to be an expert on a topic to think of a good idea. Some of the most innovative ideas come from people who are not subject-matter experts.
  • Don’t be nervous. Even if someone comes up with an impossible idea, nobody says you HAVE to implement every, or any, suggestion.
  • Have fun. For us, it was a great way to bring the company together, share ideas and have a good time with co-workers. Though perhaps my view was skewed by the fact that one of my ideas won me a prize.

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Kyle Oppenhuizen
Staff Writer, Business Record
@KyleOppenhuizen