Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this:
You’re in a meeting where everything is going along smoothly. You are feeling optimistic—you may get done early so you can get back to your office and have a few minutes back in your day! All of the sudden, someone in the room derails the conversation and direction of the meeting causing a flurry of discussion, debate and disagreement. Now you are annoyed because not only are you not going to get those extra 15 minutes back in your day, but this meeting will likely run long or worse yet, another meeting will need to be scheduled so the team can conclude the original business the meeting had been intended to accomplish.
The only thing worse than being a team member at the table when this happens is being the meeting organizer or leader and realizing that you failed to run an effective meeting and you allowed the meeting to get out of control, off track, and all of the sudden ineffective in accomplishing the goal.
So, who’s to blame? Is it the leader that allowed this nonsense to happen? The person who clearly and intentionally disrupted the meeting? Or will you take personal responsibility for not helping to refocus the group and get the meeting back on track?
What if all of these answers are wrong?
I want to challenge you to open your mind and consider a completely different way of looking at this situation. If everyone in that meeting came together to solve a problem and easily agreed to a solution, the meeting would have been over quickly. But did all of the ideas in the room get vetted? Did group think happen? Did you settle for the easiest and safest solution? Did you just keep doing what you always do the way you always do it? Was “that person” actually disrupting the meeting or where they simply interjecting as a disrupter?
Disruption vs. disrupter
So, what’s the difference? To me, disruption is an intentional unsettling of the normal peace just to cause pain and suffering for the sake of entertainment. But being a disrupter is very different.
A disrupter will often have thoughts that are not mainstream with the group. They will likely be the ones that speak up and ask questions at the risk of being ridiculed by their peers. They will be the ones that are willing to introduce new ideas and concepts not yet explored at a time when the group is easily aligned on one solution. A disrupter-type will always assume that no matter how well something is running or how good something is, there will always be a better way to do it, even if there isn’t. A disrupter will constantly need to explore new ideas, alternative concepts, and innovative solutions. It doesn’t mean the disrupter will always have a better way, but before the final decision is made they will urge the group to at least consider the idea that there may be a different way of doing something.