Announcing the SOCAP24 Agenda — Going Deeper: Catalyzing Systems Change!

Self-Disrupt to Redesign the Future of Work

Sandja Brügmann November 5, 2018

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

The future of work encourages whole human beings to move toward their highest soulful potential. This requires a drastic redesign of organizations, how we work, and what we recognize as success. It calls on us to move away from control, manipulation, and fear toward cultures that support and foster personal growth, freedom, autonomy, and blossoming of the individual.

Leaders operate their businesses within an increasingly complex context of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). They must navigate resource scarcity, economic polarity, the speed of technological advancement, environmental breakdown, human disconnection, and changes in what’s valued as a life well lived. Seventy-five percent of us expect brands to make more of a contribution to our wellbeing, yet only 40 percent think brands are doing so. On the talent attraction and retention side, research shows that employees want to work for purposeful companies, where their own values align with those of the company.

This calls for leaders who are responsible, responsive, and deeply human-centric and regenerative in their mindsets, heart-sets, and behaviors. A redesign of work of this magnitude cannot come from the same level of consciousness as that which created the old business and societal models. It requires more than mindset shifts. It requires leaders and employees to self-disrupt.

The self-disruption shift is not merely a ‘nice to have.’ It’s simply good business. Here are eight key methods and areas for self-disruption to help you stay fit for the future context of work, leadership, consumption, and business.

1. Developmental organizational cultures

What do we need to disrupt in ourselves? Self-disruption is all about our own thought, feeling, and action patterns — which to a large extent are unconscious to each of us. It’s almost impossible to self-disrupt without a trusted, supportive structure of people around us, who help us see our own limiting, self-sabotaging mindsets and behaviors.

This is exactly what developmental organizations do. These organizations are designed for optimal human-personal development, where the design of work, team interaction, and collaboration is based in psychological safety and transformational methodologies. All participants take active responsibility for their own transformation and serve as each other’s growth and accountability partners.

The most important blind spot that we need to solve in leadership is the interior condition, the level of being and consciousness, from where we create. This is so far removed from our daily lives and businesses that we do not really have a language for it yet.

Focusing on personal growth within our business environment is not the easy route; it takes dedication, daily practice and focus, a big portion of courage and curiosity, and the will to grow. It takes deep trust that when we receive feedback from our colleagues, we are able to take it in, process internally, and use it to grow further — rather than going into defensiveness.

2. Life-enhancing leadership

Life-enhancing organizations understand the participation in and reliance and mutual interdependence on the living systems — namely a healthy, thriving planet and healthy, thriving people. The premise of success in the ‘old-school’ leadership mindset is economic growth to the detriment of people and planet. It’s quite a self-disruptive shift for a leader who sees business success in the ‘old-school’ manner to shift from an exploitative and self-focused values set, to one of thriving for all stakeholders.

Our unconscious behaviors, stemming from unconscious shadow thoughts, create unintended consequences that ripple both inside and outside the organizational structure. When the top leaders become more conscious, a shift takes place within the entire organization — and systemic, holistic solutions become accessible for everyone.

A recent survey by IPSOS Global Trends shows that 68 percent of people believe the most successful brands will be those that make the most positive contribution to society. The largest contribution to society each of us can make is to grow as individuals. When we grow as individuals — and when we help others grow — we generate a deep-seeded sense of meaning, authentic connectedness, and purpose. This type of motivation, innovative solution thinking, and complex, creative problem-solving creates long-lasting brand and business success. One study found that conscious companies outperform the S&P 500 by a factor of 10.5.

3. From fear to freedom

Harvard Business Review identified over 500 consequences of fear in the workplace, including a focus on survival rather than growth, lack of action unless there is a crisis, and poor decision-making. Among the symptoms of fear in the workplace are stress, micro-management, control, anger, manipulation, and disengagement — all very pervasive in today’s business practices and leadership style. Gallup documented in 2016 that less than 33 percent of the U.S. workforce was engaged, and disengaged employees cost the country somewhere between $450 billion and $550 billion each year.

This is not just a United States issue. The world has an employee engagement crisis, with serious and potentially lasting repercussions for the global economy.

When you make business decisions, it’s important that you are not stuck in the past mindset driven by what you already know, which is often fear-driven. In order to create innovative, disruptive, and new solutions — which implies doing something that hasn’t been done before — you need courageous leadership governed by the unknown future you want to create.

4. Systems thinking and sensing

The leaders who learn to understand the interrelatedness and interconnectedness of today’s global challenges — and create solutions to these challenges — will be in high demand. Sustainability is not merely an ethical and moral question. Sustainability is possibly the largest business opportunity of our time. It’s estimated that meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — a framework for solving 17 of the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges by 2030 —will create $12 trillion a year in new market opportunities. Eighty-seven percent of CEOs believe these goals will be important to the future success of their business.

The future of work calls for living-systems logic. To get there, leaders need to activate and trust their human intelligences — intuition, emotional intelligence, and body wisdom. Only from this place can individuals perceive, collaborate, and create in a manner that is truly innovative and disruptive to the status quo. All else is merely incremental change.

5. Learning through living

Ninety percent of the world’s information was generated within the last two years, and if information is an indication of our growing consciousness, it looks like we might be doing well. However, information and traditional education fosters only theoretical knowledge. In order to self-disrupt, grow, and transform, we need to bring our knowing to a higher level of understanding. This can only take place through our own embodied and lived experiences, where we observe ourselves and take action through our current filter of thought, emotion, and action patterns.

This requires that we embrace our imperfect selves and the imperfections of others so we can be in process and allow actual learning through lived experience. No one can take this journey for us. We each need to self-disrupt on our own — and in supportive, developmental-focused structures.

6. Passion, purpose, and strong will

Combine passion and purpose to make a positive impact for other people, coupled with a strong will, and you have one unstoppable cocktail. Companies or organizations that work with meaningfulness at their core have a greater purpose that goes far beyond selling a product or a service. Because of this, they attract more motivated and engaged employees who intentionally choose a place of work that matches their own values and passion. Studies show that 77 percent of the new generations choose to work for meaningful companies.

7. Moving beyond victim consciousness to empowered creators

It’s a common human behavior to go into victimhood, where we point a finger at another person. It’s the easiest way to operate, and we give our power away, missing our opportunity to grow as people.

It requires a willingness to show up and go into the messy process to be with what is. In a conscious organizational structure, nothing is swept under the carpet, silenced, or shamed. This requires a strengthening of responsive leadership skills, such as sensitivity, curiosity, humility, listening, open-mindedness, compassion, a release of wanting to be right, and a willingness to learn and grow.

As a reflection, identify a current conflict. How are you handling it? What actions can you take instead that will get you closer to the result you desire?

8. Vulnerability as strength, not weakness

To be vulnerable is an extreme strength. When you melt into your vulnerability, you will accept yourself with all of your strengths and weaknesses. Courage and vulnerability are directly connected. Stepping into vulnerability is an act of true courage. Being part of — and allowing — a situation based on our own and others’ vulnerability and human imperfection requires strength. Let our objective be progress, not perfectionism.

More traditional business leaders, however, will see vulnerability as a weakness, because they are not yet in touch with their own humanity. The ones who will create the future of work and business must therefore be both vulnerable and shame resilient.

The good leader changes perception of the successful life to support regenerative behaviors that support human thriving and the planet’s ability to regenerate itself, along with financial profits.


The current shift in consciousness toward purposeful work and businesses that solve global challenges is to a large degree driven by a deep-seeded desire to feel our own good and empowered human nature and to be deeply connected with others. We are moving away from a separatist societal and work culture, to one that cultivates, encourages, and enlivens us at a deep and soulful level.

Social Entrepreneurship / Stakeholder Capitalism
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