5 Steps to Spark Industry Disruption and a Creative Revolution

Find a need and chip away at it

illustration of a man in a black hat holding up a frame with circles
True disruption sparks change for all and has a major impact, but it starts with one person. Yenpitsu Nemoto

Step into a time machine to early 2016, and you would have found me, a 37-year-old agency owner, wanting to “see the change and be the change” while living my day-to-day without truly disrupting or changing a damn thing. I was actively repressing my inner desires to change the world (or die trying), and that made for a very disgruntled self.

As a creative, denying your inner disruptor can eat you alive. Let’s not do that, shall we? Instead, here’s how you can tap into your inner disruptor, change the world and keep your day job.

What’s in it for you?

First things first: Be honest. What’s in it for you? If you walk a path toward disruption, there must be a personal reward. Without any self-service, you’ll run out of steam, and your attempt at disruption will fail miserably.

You are not going to change the world tomorrow. True disruption must include perseverance, dedication and patience.

No one ever does anything for nothing, and disruption should not be an exception to that rule. True disruption sparks change for all affected and has a major impact, but it starts with one person wanting to change the shape of their world into something they desire very badly.

My disruption, for example, is to change the game for women in my industry. Yes, I am helping thousands, but I started this to help myself first after my own personal frustrations hit a boiling point. The bottom line is that you have to want and also benefit from the disruption you seek out.

Listen to your gut

So, what is it that you really want?

Start with the question: What is something in your day-to-day existence that absolutely drives you mad? Take that frustration, stop allowing it to affect you negatively and harness that into a plan forward to change.

Is it your commute, the culture at your agency or the long line for your morning coffee? All of the above are frustrations you could solve in some way. A company carpool, a team retreat or team building plan are all solutions (though, honestly, I have no immediate ideas to solve the coffee line issue). But you get the idea. Everything and anything is up for grabs. As long as it solves an infuriating problem, it’s ripe for disruption.

Start small

Pro tip: You are not going to change the world tomorrow. True disruption must include perseverance, dedication and patience. You’ll be founding something, creating something from nothing, and it will take you and your leadership to see it through. The minute you falter or push your disruption to the back burner, you’ll miss out on opportunities.

Find your ambassadors

Disruption can’t happen in a vacuum. You must find your dedicated ambassadors, those who believe in everything you are fighting for. They should be at the table at the very start as a focus group, and then as advisers and eventually as true ambassadors or loyal consumers of your disruption.

Wear your armor

If the first blows—and there will be blows—knock you out, you won’t disrupt a thing. Be prepared for naysayers and critics. Be doubly prepared for those who cast judgment upon you or those that insult your efforts. Your shield of armor is to hear those doubts, weigh them against what you see and your reality, and then move on or course-correct as needed. In some cases, these critics’ points are justified and should be indicators of challenges to your theory. If that’s the case, then adjust, refine and thank them for their feedback. But in other cases, their feedback should be appreciated but not necessarily acted upon.

Your disruption may not be my disruption. We’re all unique, powerful creators, and it’s important to listen to your gut and follow your own path toward that change you want to see. The key to disruption is in the mirror, and I hope you embrace the challenge and find the fulfillment that’s sure to be waiting on the other side.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 16, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@alainashearer Alaina Shearer is the founder of Together Digital and host of the You Rock podcast.