2019 is the Year of Disruption

I contend, disruption is not a bad word. And, the answer to disruption is improvisation.

What if we stopped fearing disruption and saw it as necessary? What if we leaned into that fear and discomfort and became the disruptor? That’s what improvisers do every day. On the improvisational stage, our job is to disrupt the status quo – to surprise and delight our audience.

John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco, is famously credited with a dire prediction, “In 10 years, 40% of the Fortune 500 will be gone.” The quote is at least two years old, and is right on track. Technological disruption and innovative approaches to customer service are replacing heavy behemoths across industries.

Use improvisation to lean in.

In improv, we lean into discomfort and stoke disruption. Imagine what it’s like to be onstage, when no one is laughing and the show feels like it’s slowly draining away. Your insides curdle, and you want to run away. If we do that onstage, things get worse. When we are most uncomfortable, we lean forward to give more energy, crazier characters, more commitment to the show. And it’s that action that gives you the chance to save the day. We disrupt our own survival instincts and do something unexpected – we stay, commit, create and persist.

In our workshops, keynotes, global webinars, micro-learning and social learning events, I often have people tell me it’s the best learning experience they’ve ever had – it’s unexpected. We change the approach to adult learning, break a lot of “rules” and always keep the learner, rather than the agenda, in the spotlight. In other words, we disrupt the expectation and improvise.

When you are most uncomfortable with change – when you are afraid, and your world is being disrupted, which way are you leaning?

Lean forward, take a breath, do something bold and unexpected.

Here are two ways to disrupt your everyday:

  1. Think Upside Down – what could be accomplished if you approached your situation as if all the elements were opposite? Or if a child were trying to solve the issue? Or if you had half the time?
  2. Play – Put yourself in someone’s shoes who might see the humor in the situation. Or add an element of competition, playfulness, goofiness or rhythm to a staid situation.*

Improvisation demands disruption, and so does our world. So, as you consider your work, rather than wait in fear for disruption to happen to you, your team, and your organization, and your industry, behave like an improviser.

Be the disruptor.


Happy 2019! We believe this will be an improvisational year for you!



*Excerpted from “Go With It: Embrace the Unexpected to Drive Change”, by Karen Hough, ATD Press 2017

This article is 100% written by a human named Karen Hough. She is the Founder & CEO of ImprovEdge, in the top 4% of women-owned businesses in the US, a 3-time Amazon bestselling author, Yale grad, wife and mom of three.