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Book Review: A Guide to Positive Disruption


A Guide to Positive Disruption: How to Thrive and Make an Impact in the Churn of Today’s Corporate World by Joanna Martinez delivers a striking combination of advice, tough love, and hope. With this one included, I have reviewed 87 business books in my time at Buyers Meeting Point, but I have never reviewed a book where I already knew the author so well. It is ironic, because this book is intensely personal – not in the biographical sense, but in the way that Joanna lays her professional experiences open for examination, and invites the reader to do the same with their own.

I opened my (soft) reviewer’s copy of the book shortly after Joanna sent it to me – just to make sure I could access the file. The next thing I knew, I was 10 pages in. The conversational style of the book paired with the honesty of the many illustrating examples make it addictive, and given the ongoing challenges associated with navigating disruption, I suspect you’ll read it more than once. I know I will.

As Joanna points out early and often, change is unavoidable. On a macro level, companies and industries are being completely shaken up by changes in technology, automation, globalization and competition. This leads to a million points of fallout, one of which may touch you. Seeing this disruption as positive is largely a matter of perspective. A change that is beneficial for one person may have negative consequences for another. Being able to cope with disruption that you are not responsible for comes down to three things: preparation, awareness, and a desire to succeed.

The core message of this book is that many things will happen to you during your career; some will be positive and some will be negative, but they will all have an impact on you personally and professionally. If you are closed to the idea of self-reflection and improvement or if you are unwilling to work hard, you are likely to find yourself the ‘victim’ of circumstances again and again. But even that is a choice. “Inertia and denial are not your friends. Action and forward thinking are what you need.” (p. 31) Each of us is likely to face so many changes that even if we make a poor decision, we’ll have another opportunity to do better shortly thereafter. In fact, as Joanna points out, it is usually our mistakes that lead to the most meaningful growth.

My biggest take-away is just how much power each of us has to effect change:

“…all of us can use our brainpower and ideas to make improvements. They don’t have to be billion-dollar ideas. They can be little changes that don’t take any monetary investment at all. Positive changes—Positive Disruptions.” (p. 111)

“…and the sum of little things can be substantial.” (p. 39)

You don’t need to be the best or the brightest to be successful; each of us has unique capabilities that we can (and must) capitalize on. It is a little bit like self-selection or willpower. Winners win, but not because anything is handed to them. They practice harder, make extra effort, and leverage the collective wisdom of their friends and colleagues. Do not underestimate the importance of your connections. They are a key resource in good times and in bad, but just like success, they require constant investment over time. There is no value in having a large network if it doesn’t contain any actual relationships.

As Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Joanna often took the road less traveled, sometimes by her own choice, other times not. When considered in summation, it looks like she had a brilliant master plan all the time, although it was her own resilience that mattered more than the circumstances. A few particularly important anecdotes in the book reinforce this idea, and each will help you uncover ways to be the master of your own journey:

  • The lost year which led to the decision to “Take Charge” (p. 35)
  • How to “Stand Apart” despite a very unusual job interview (p. 52)
  • The technical glitch that served as a reminder of the importance of being present in the moment (p. 94)

I’m flattered that Joanna included some of my writing in the chapter on doing what is necessary – to have been even a small part of her extraordinary journey to this point is hugely rewarding. It is also thrilling to see the names of so many friends and colleagues (Phil Ideson, Magnus Lind, Greg Tennyson, Chris Sawchuck, and Christian Lanng just to name a few) held up as examples of positive disruption. This is not a procurement or supply chain-focused book. The fact that our industry contains so many examples of people doing difficult things very well just because they can makes me think that procurement is far more innovative than we are often thought to be.

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