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Disruptive or Just Annoying?

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with my friend @RebeccaSaltman while I was the guest teacher for a class she leads.

Disruptive. Unreasonable. These are very hot words that I see everywhere these days. We want to be the contrarian. The one who shakes things up. The one who doesn’t settle. And I am ALL about those things. I mean, heck, my blog is called Escaping Mediocrity and I teach my children to be anything but sheep.

But here’s the thing. There is a huge difference between being disruptive and just being annoying. Successful Disruptors, those who actually make things happen, are intensely aware of this fact. They know that if they tilt into the annoying category, no one will listen to them, follow them or even entertain their disruptive point of view. They’ll get tuned out and disrupt in a vacuum. Not the ideal situation.

So, what do the successful Disruptors do to keep themselves out of the annoying category? Here are a few of my thoughts:

1) They do their own research and their own homework. They don’t filter their research so that they only know the facts that support their disruptive point of view. In fact, they usually know more about the opposing point of view than those who actually hold it. This gives them immense power in any discussion.

2) They attack ideas, not people. Personal denigration has no place in disruption. Successful Distruptors know that vitriolic attacks on people are a) easy to dismiss and b) reflect poorly on the attacker not on the attackee.

3) They are diligently self-aware. The great Disruptors that I know always check their extreme emotional responses and reactions to make sure there isn’t something going on with themselves that they need to address. Public emotional temper tantrums do not advance a Disruptive movement (Steve Jobs not withstanding).

I have more ideas but, as always, I’m much more interested in what you think. What do you think separates the Successful Disruptor from the Annoying Also Ran?

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  • http://twitter.com/wildwomanfund Mazarine

    Hi Sarah! I just participated in the twitter chat today and got to “meet you’” there.

    I have a chapter in my new book, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Social Media, devoted to how to get more attention online and I talk a little bit about being disruptive. My version of disruptive is, do the opposite of what people expect you to do. Give compliments to your rivals. find a sacred cow in the industry and chat about how it needs to be tipped. That sort of thing.  So i agree, it’s not good to attack someone personally, but it is good to attack ideas.

    For example, this week on my blog, I talked about what’s wrong with online for-profit colleges. This is the link, if you’re curious. http://www.wildwomanfundraising.com/scam-fraud-warning-bisk-education/

    Would you call it annoying or disruptive? I did call out one college in particular, but I simply did my research, cited it, put it all in one place, and suggested that people do their own research before committing to online school. Two years ago I would probably have been a lot more salty in my response, but I decided to be helpful, instead.  I did get a response from the college I talked about, and they asked me to amend my post to say they were a 40+ year old company that helps colleges do online versions of degrees. I told them that they were welcome to leave a comment if they wanted to add something. Freedom is a two way street. I had a teacher whose strong opinions polarized people about him, but for me, it was refreshing to see him worked up about things. He taught me that being an iconoclast can define you in a world where so many people want to be bland, for fear of offending someone.

    What do you think? Do you ever feel too timid?

    Mazarine

  • http://www.craigmcbreen.com/ Craig McBreen

    Hi Sarah,

    This is so true. Taking and idea, product, etc. and turning it on its head is great practice for creativity and product innovation. But, being disruptive just for the sake of being disruptive, well yes, that is annoying ;)

    One of the great things about the social web is that you can experiment like never before. But like you’ve written, there are more than a few out there who are just unreasonable and contrary sticks in the mud ;) They love to complain.

    About the concept? I love what Luke Williams says about it: “The potential for reinvention is all around us, and it’s an exciting time to be thinking about how to structure (or restructure) your business, your community, or your life in ways that create new value.”

  • http://www.getmejamienotter.com/ Jamie Notter

    They’re okay being disrupted (don’t dish it out if you can’t take it).
    They genuinely care about whoever it is they’re disrupting. 
    Maybe another way of saying that last one, but the disruption is done in the service of problem solving and making things better.