Thinking about Quiet Disruptors

…and change agents, and pirates

“Have you noticed? We’re shifting from one era to the next.

From the modern, industrial age with linear and predictable answers, to a complex, interconnected and volatile world. Where what we do affects who others become and impacts our whole environment, without us fully realising it.

We need different voices — people with fresh things to say who don’t need to shout”

From The Manifesto for Quiet Disruptors, Sue Heatherington.

Sue Heatherington’s book, Quiet Disruptors: Creating Change Without Shouting really resonated with me. It reflects many recent conversations (& some not so recent) calling for new voices to be heard, [a need] to change the conversation and culture through curiosity, reflection and engagement.

Sue shares her thinking generously about seeing things through fresh eyes, questioning, making courageous connections, and provides a guide to how we can be the change we want to see (something that I strive to be, as anyone who has received an e-mail from me will know).

I would recommend this book to those who feel that they are, know, or should be aware of* these broader, quieter thinkers who can vision real change and new ways of doing things — but are often over-talked, over-looked or simply considered thorns, but are really roses :-) It is also for people who want to see change, can envision a better way forward and need inspiration — I recommend taking a look at the Manifesto for quiet disruptors too.

I subscribe to the Manifesto, and to the Age of Human who also follow a people centered path. I very much hope to “find the others” and work with them to make these thoughts actions and help them spread.

The book got me thinking, and reflecting on a constellation of ideas which I believe are interlinked and valuable in creating not only the organisations we want to be part of, but a thinking and progressive society that we are co-creators of.

A couple of years ago, I learned about change agents (NHS School for Change Agents), people within an organisation who can facilitate change by providing a conduit across the organisation so voices at all levels can be heard and contribute to the change. Oddly, we find that by engaging with our employees, hearing from the people on the ground and considering their views, change / transformation is more likely to be successful. These conduits are likely to be made up of just 3% of your workforce… you just need to identify them.

This isn’t new: In the 1980’s a group of scientists joined NASA, & were shocked to see the lack of innovation, NASA was rule bound, hierarchical and had become “dangerously political’. The organisation was hibernating in a ‘we always do it this way’ culture, stifled by bureaucracy by 1986 the renegades had had enough. They joined together and developed thinking outside NASAs norms, identifying better ways of working and inventing ‘radically new responses’. With an initial success (look up NASA Pirates), and demonstration to management that their approach had saved time and money, and motivated a whole team to go above & beyond, they formed the Pirates.

Not everyone wants to be a Pirate (a colleague suggested it might be a little radical), the majority of people are happy to get on with their day to day, doing great work. My guess is there is a reasonable correlation between the 3%, boat rocking Pirates and Quiet Disruptors; I have no evidence of this.

This is the first of my musings, and I hope over the next few weeks / months, to make sense of / re-illuminate others’ great thoughts for discussion. I’ll be thinking more about change agents, pirates, curious leaders, serious listening, the power of reflection in leadership and equity, relationships for better organisations and the ecology of communication… Oh, and I may talk some about ‘soft’ skills.

I hope my serial musings will cause others to consider, challenge and come forwards to cause change. Let me know what you think.


*Hint — I think everyone should be aware :-)


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