Disrupt Yourself or Be Disrupted – Nicky Verd

“It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin

At any given point in our lives, we’re either at a crossroad, at scale, a pivot or status quo. The last place you want to be, according to Nicky Verd, is the status quo. Anybody that embraces the status quo is on a collision course with time. Nicky is an International Keynote Speaker and leading thinker on driving innovation and digital transformation through personal disruption. She is a show-stopping inspiration and a voice for those who yearn to recreate themselves and discover new opportunities in the digital era. Nicky Verd is also the Author of the hit book Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted, and has been recognized by Thinkers360 and Award Magazine as one of the Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Tech Influencers on Digital Disruption and Future of Work.

We’ve been watching your Authentic Entrepreneur journey over the past 3+ years and can attest to the fact that you’ve recreated and set yourself up for the success you have today.  Can you tell us a little bit more about your journey and how you’ve used personal disruption to get to where you are today?

My journey has been an interesting one. In 2016 I was retrenched from a job I held unto for dear life. Retrenchment was something I never saw coming. I signed a permanent contract of employment and my boss used to discuss his plans for the next 5 years with me. I had a false sense of security and so, the thought of retrenchment never crossed my mind. Then, when it happened, I was beyond devastated.

As time went on, my pain turned into curiosity. I started asking questions as to why retrenchment was so rampant and what was driving it. I started questioning how a company can afford to retrenched or lay off thousands of employees in a space of 2 to 3 years and yet don’t go bankrupt but instead increases productivity, efficiency and much more.

These questions let me to the belly of the internet. I started researching and that was when I first came to the realization of machines replacing humans in the workplace. I came across words like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and much more; all powered by something called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the time, these concepts sounded very foreign and were quite intimidating since I had no background in tech or IT.  

I became very fascinated with emerging technologies and their impact in the world of work, to such an extent, that I started to blog about it. One thing led to another and the articles evolved into my published book, titled Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted.

As you can see, personal disruption happened for me by default. Someone disrupted my life and in trying to pick up the pieces, I discovered a new path for myself. Writing a book or becoming a public speaker wasn’t something I sat down and planed for but when my life was thrown out of balance, what silently lay dormant inside of me came to the surface and today, I am living a dream I didn’t even know I had.

And so, in my book, I’m urging people to be proactive and not wait until things are thrown out of balance. One of the best ways to cope with, and harness the forces of disruption, is to become the agent of your own disruption.

What does personal disruption mean to you?

Personal disruption at its core is the ability to adopt forward-thinking, evolve and reinvent yourself. Personal disruption is the willingness to play where others are not and the willingness to step out of your comfort zone. The premise of personal disruption is for people to be able to ask themselves difficult questions and get feedback based on current trends and where the world is going.

Many people think of disruption only in terms of new business models or unforeseen forces (like the Covid-19 Pandemic) that shakes up an industry or an entire economy, but disruption also works at a personal level, where people who want to pivot and move ahead can disrupt themselves, reinvent and change the trajectory of their life and business. However, the focus on individual disruption is still heavily discounted by some and even ignored, despite it being the central driving force.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs who feel stuck, demotivated and as if their dreams will never be realized?

My advice to any aspiring entrepreneur who feel stuck or demotivated is that you should embrace whatever life throws at you. Don’t run away. Fight to change the trajectory of your life. Fight to turn your wounds into wisdom. Fight to turn disappointment into opportunity. Don’t run away from pain; more often than not, a best-seller, best business model or an award-winning song are born from deep adversity or out of an economic crisis, like the one the world is facing right now with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Therefore, learn how to harness technology to create better solutions for everyday problems and in so doing, you’d acquire sustainable entrepreneurship through innovation and design thinking, to enable the rapid discovery of potential new products, services and processes.

How would you define innovation and digital transformation?

Innovation refers to the turning of ideas into simple solutions that adds value to the market. Innovation is really about responding to change in creative ways. It’s about making a product/service simpler, cheaper, more valuable and exponential. Innovation isn’t necessarily about being first to market with a brand-new idea that no one has ever heard of, innovation is taking what’s currently present in the market and re-defining it even further.

Digital transformation is a holistic term which involves the integration of digital technologies in all aspect of business which fundamentally changes how a business delivers value to the end consumer. Digital transformation has different meanings for different people and organizations, depending on at what stage people are on their journey. Some people might only need to improve their digital tools, while others have to start from scratch and transition to digital platforms. In simple terms, digital transformation is the adoption of new technologies to improve services or automate your business to make it more efficient and effective.

How important is innovation and digital transformation for entrepreneurial success today?

As economic change accelerates, so must the pace of your own personal strategic renewal.  The digital world has radically changed consumer behavior and expectations. Therefore, innovation and digital transformation are critically important because these tools helps businesses keep up with emerging customer demands and consequently survive in the face of the disruption. 

One of the biggest mistake businesses and entrepreneurs make is relying on what worked in the past, i.e. they rely on their past success by doing the same thing for too long. It is easier to come up with innovative ideas but it’s even more difficult to let go of an old idea that worked well in the past. But the truth is, what worked well in the past may not necessarily work well in future because the world is constantly changing.

In today’s world, it’s survival of the fittest! Innovate or die! And so, sticking only to what you are familiar with is a strategic blunder that can get you killed and kicked out of the game in these disruptive times.

As Deepak Chopra, author and public speaker, said: All great changes are preceded by chaos.”

As devastating as this pandemic is, Covid-19 might just be the kick in the teeth that some entrepreneurs needed to let go of their brick-and-mortar business models and start digitizing certain processes. Digital transformation will help them compete better in an economic environment that is constantly changing in response to technological evolutions.

What action steps / advice can you offer Authentic Entrepreneurs looking to drive innovation and digital transformation through personal disruption?

The future belongs to those who have the courage to disrupt their own past successes. It belongs to those who can avoid the nostalgia to step into the unfamiliar and break the borders of their own comfort zone. You cannot innovate within your comfort zone.

And so, here are some action steps Authentic Entrepreneurs can take to transform themselves and their businesses:

  • Shift your mindset: technology is only part of the equation. The mind is where the revolution begins.
  • Investing in yourself: You can sign up for online courses relevant to your situation. The internet is a school on its own. What skills do you admire or desire to have? You might just be a Google search away from learning it. 
  • Create a website and social media pages for your business: The digital era and the Web landscape have provided the means for everyone to have a voice and a digital footprint. With a computer, a smartphone and access to the internet you can become anything you want to be. You can become your own PR agent, you can blow your own trumpet, you can tell your own story, be your own publisher, and so much more.
  • Have a digital presence: Become active online and create content. The internet and social networks have given us an incredible opportunity, not only to innovate and create content, but also to reach a global audience. It doesn’t matter which industry you’re in, anyone with a smartphone, a social media account, a website or a blog is your competition. As Gary Vee say: “You have to be where people’s attention is.”
  • Learn the basics of SEO: The simplest way for you to understand what SEO is all about and why it’s important, is to ask the question – “If someone is searching for the type of product/service I’m offering on Google right now, will my name or business name come up?” The answer to this critical question will show you where you are in your journey of innovation and digital transformation.

Connect with Nicky through her website, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Order your copy of her book.

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