How to Use Pattern Disruption to Sustain a Culture of Innovation

pattern disruption to sustain a culture of innovation

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a webinar about dancing bears in colorful ball gowns. I mean, who hasn’t? The subtext here (and arguably the more important focus) was to discover new methods of disruption and innovation.

In case you missed it, you can watch a replay of the webinar here (gated content).

If you’re in a subway, without your headphones, or reading this on a flip phone for some reason, let me offer this summary.

You Like Your Patterns. Why Would You Want to Disrupt Them?

We’ve had a lifetime of patterns. As we grew up, we had bed times and meal times – our patterns were set for us and we didn’t have a lot of say about them. But they were ours, and they made us feel safe.

Even as adults, many of us follow patterned schedules. We have a standard bedtime, mealtimes, the 3 pm coffee break, how we drive and navigate. These things, like when we were younger, make us feel safe. We learned these patterns as children, and our adult brains seek patterns to make sense of the world around us.

Sometimes our brains even identify patterns where none exist! And as a result, we now resist changes. This resistance can happen for many reasons: keeping control, showing our competence, it takes too much work to change, and if we change one thing, we run the risk of the ripple effects in other parts of our lives.

Since we’re resistant to change, we attack reoccurring issues in the same way, which stalls innovation.

Pattern Recognition: How to Identify if Your Organization, Teams or Individuals are “Stuck”

Being aware of the pattern is the first step in the process. This happens through experiencing the pattern, recognizing it, and then that brain of ours categorizes it to determine our initial response of how we handle (or ignore) the pattern. After these steps, we do the real work of responding, or determining not to do anything.

Our patterns may be personal or professional and it’s important to understand the benefits of recognizing patterns. For instance; safety, breaking a destructive habit, working on a difficult relationship. We can only make a change by first identifying what needs to change.

Pattern Disruption: Exercises, Approaches, and Tricks for Attacking Challenges in New and Highly Engaging Ways

Sometimes disruption comes from the unexpected. Or, it can be a physical or verbal change that disrupts some type of unwanted behavior. New perspectives are also a valuable tool for disrupting patterns. Instead of just looking at it from our existing mental models, we’re forced to see it through the eyes of other key stakeholders.

Getting into our discomfort zone (read: growth) is critical, and one great way to get into that space is through bringing improvisational comedy to the workplace.

And how about those dancing bears? That idea comes from a great book written by Disney Imagineers called The Imagineering Workout. It has many wonderful exercises for disruptive thinking, and I highly recommend it. One of those great exercises has participants spend time matching disparate ideas (bears and ball gowns, for example), and creating a story or talking about it to push out some creative thinking and find some innovative sparks along the way. It’s all about getting people into a creative space.

Disruption involves the critical elements of keeping things audience appropriate, making it unexpected, framing it within the overall story, weaving to a result at the end, and making it sticky!

Sustaining a Culture of Innovative Thinking

This is where the big benefits arrive. Sustaining organizational innovation involves creating a new norm; a sustained culture. A sustainable culture of innovation involves everyone and being intentional about how it plays out day-to-day.

What are some of those sustainable ideas? Filming and analyzing a broken process. Getting input from a variety of departments. Sharing mind maps to bring out key ideas. Encouraging teams to brainstorm. Introducing a physical variation, bringing people outside, getting them exercising. These are all ways to involve stakeholders, intentionally plan, and create ideas and solutions that meet people where they are. The next critical step, to make this all a reality, is to build accountability into the improvement process.

I am grateful to our friends at PatSnap. They were gracious and helpful as our hosts. And thanks also to our participants, and you, our readers!

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Cary Paul

Director at gothamCulture
Cary Paul has more than eighteen years of experience in facilitation, training, and change management.
Cary is known for his ability to engage participants and achieve results through an innovative, experiential facilitation style. He helps organizations re-imagine their approach to ongoing business issues through the design and facilitation of engaging elements. These include music, video, improv comedy, organizational storyboarding, community involvement, world change, and other right-brain solutions.