Dare to Disrupt

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It was a privilege to be a ‘Speed Mentoring’ panelist and meet promising MBA talent at Columbia Women in Business’ 22nd annual conference sponsored by UMT Consulting.

The theme of the event last month was ‘disruption’ or, in other words… uprooting and changing how we think, behave, do business and go about our professional ‘day-to-day’ in the quest for distinction. According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, “Disruption is the force that displaces an existing market, industry, or technology, and produces something new and more efficient. It is at once destructive and creative.” Looking at the world through the eyes of a ‘disruptor’, no single business model or sector are off-limits to a raw burst of change.

This year, Columbia Business School selected a list of immensely accomplished ‘disruptors’ to deliver key-notes and empower young MBAs to take action and innovate. These ‘disruptors’ share a common purpose: create businesses, services and products that are better, more efficient, more creative, useful, impactful and scalable.

Although the event was targeted towards female business school students, there were valuable lessons for men and women, green or experienced, corporate or creative types, as well as for me personally.

Dare to Disrupt sign

One speaker clearly stood out. It was Michelle Peluso’s account of leading her NY-based last-minute flight booking company and its team through an IPO in the aftermath of 9/11. Today, Michelle is the CEO of Gilt and a Nike board member. She likes to surround herself with people she considers smarter than her, so her learning process never stops even after reaching the peak of her career and first becoming CEO at 32. She does not believe in having an office or a desk. She is most productive and feels closest to her staff when sitting and working side by side with them. Here the five principles she lives, leads and innovates by:

  • Build other people up. You never get to where you are alone.
  • Cultivate self-doubt. Listen to opposing views and people around you. They will help you see things you don’t see yourself.
  • Leaders often fail because they are not bold enough.
  • Be at your best when things are at their worst.
  • Do it all with grace.

In conclusion…the truth is that a typical ‘disruptor’ reminds me very much of the ‘entrepreneurial type’ talent we cultivate at UMT and the work we do– going after a set model, process or way of doing business and turning it on its head to make it efficient. Now, let’s go disrupt!