Blog Innovation

From Disruption to Up-ruption: Exploring the Rise to a Higher Logic

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, traditional strategic frameworks can fall short in preparing organizations for the challenges of tomorrow. In the latest Thinkers50 Radar list, we came across Greg Bernarda and his concept of up-ruption. Greg, who is also co-author of the bestseller Value Proposition Design, developed the idea of up-ruption to urge leaders to rise from an era of disruption to an era of higher meaning and new value creation.

We turned to Greg to dive into this fresh perspective on strategic innovation, and here’s what he said:

Nordic Business Forum: Can you provide an overview of the up-ruption concept?

Greg Bernarda: Up-ruption is about undoing what is stuck or outdated and elevating it to its higher expression. While disruption often shifts value around, up-ruption lifts everyone up and creates a step change of progress. It’s a concept for anyone seeking to elevate their field, project, or community and wanting to move into an era of higher meaning and new value creation.

Up-ruptive leaders adopt a mindset and language that transcends the usual business logic of efficiency and rationality to embrace more complexity and subtlety.

NBF: Can you explain why you believe that leaders today need to embrace up-ruption by acting like Mayors rather than CEOs?

GB: One dimension of up-ruption is a shift from the individual to the collective, from the organization to the ecosystem. If a CEO looks after their own house, ecosystem leaders look after the entire village. They think and act like Mayors, and take responsibility for a larger terrain of value creation where more becomes possible.

15 years ago, we saw a shift from product to business model thinking, where the product became only one component of a larger formula of value creation. Today, we see a similar shift, where the business model becomes only one component of a superior formula of value creation.

Embracing this shift is a boon to meet the systemic nature of our contemporary issues at the appropriate level and to unlock new value for our organizations and society alike.

NBF: In practical terms, how can organizations leverage the principles of up-ruption to drive growth?

GB: By stretching their mindset and terrain of exploration in two ways:

Firstly, by engaging with what is not visible. We only unlock real growth and value if we tap into meaning that is not yet expressed. Searching, spotting, and channeling this new meaning into a new expression is work that requires navigating into dimensions that are not readily apparent or often even acknowledged.

Secondly, by expanding their operational scope to the broader ecosystem, organizations can, independently or in collaboration with others, dismantle structural barriers and open up avenues for value creation that was previously unattainable.

NBF: Are there specific industries or types of businesses that are particularly well-suited to adopting the up-ruption approach? If so, why?

GB: I don’t think there are any types or sizes of geographies better suited to it. In fact, I keep being surprised by the ways in which people make use of it in their own context. From a one-man show chess educator in Australia, to an SME energy company in Switzerland, and all the way to the largest national financial conglomerate working on developing the middle class in Peru.

Part of the key here is to go beyond the idea of ‘industry’ or ’sector’, by connecting first and foremost with a societal need or possibility that might not be met, and from there to create new relationships among actors and other pieces of the puzzle that can deliver on that possibility.

NBF: Can you share any real-world examples or case studies of companies that have successfully embraced the up-ruption mindset and achieved notable results?

GB: My original inspiration comes from a trip to China in the early 2010s. The country was in the process of lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty, at the same time as facing peak pollution, food safety issues, a requirement for massive job creation, and more. While I was in the country, I asked people which innovation was inspiring to them and they all pointed me to Alibaba, and in particular to Taobao (e-commerce platform present mostly in China). I studied it and it became clear to me that it was not your standard business. Things of a different scale and nature were done to make e-commerce work, creating trust in the economy, building an infrastructure of digital payments with a consortium of banks, or ushering in the emergence of a whole new logistics industry. The logic was closer to building a country than a business. And similarly, the value created was not just business, but societal as well, with the creation of tens of millions of jobs, bringing more integrity in commerce, and integrating rural villages into the modern economy.

The same principles of higher value creation can be observed in some of the most impactful socio-economic transformations of the last 100 years, from the electrification of society in the late 19th century, to the emergence of the automobile sector, microfinance, the PC industry, or more recently the shift to electric mobility in the last two decades.

NBF: What are the first practical steps leaders should take to incorporate up-ruption into their strategic thinking?

GB: The first step is to shift focus from a business mission to a societal purpose. The second step is to deliver on it.

This may seem like tongue-in-cheek advice. But the most impactful organizations operate out of a certain simplicity of purpose, which serves to create coherence for all pieces of the system to align towards the new possibility. It doesn’t need to be big, but it needs to be honest.

So, what up-ruption will you start?


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