George, The Disruptor

September 4th, 2013 7:09 pm Category: Optimization, by: Ted Schaefer

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At Profit Point we often talk about finding the “Disruptors” in a company to help implement change.  A disruptor is someone who takes stock of the status quo, decides whether or not it is good enough, and then does what it takes to change things for the better.

A couple of weekends ago I had the honor of helping such a person celebrate his 100th birthday.  George has had an impact on many things, big and small, over his century on this earth, ranging from his work as an ordinance officer for George Patton in North Africa; his post WWII service, setting up new airfields and installing nuclear missiles during the height of the Cold War; to building the two rows of houses on our block into a close-knit neighborhood.  Through all of these things, George has been a disruptor.

In George’s case, sometimes all it took was an off-the-cuff remark.  For example, when General Patton was on his way to an inspection in Casablanca and the quays at the port were choked with 500-lb bombs, George mused,  “I wonder what would happen if the Germans decided to strafe this place.”  As he tells it, “Those bombs got put away PDQ.”  Just a quick remark to the right person that something needed to be done differently.

Much closer to home, George has disrupted our neighborhood.  Partnering with the family across the street, George and his wife invited the rest of the block to his end of the street for hamburgers and hot dogs.  The deal was that our end of the street had to host the next cook-out sometime in the next six months.  Within a year, we were having happy hours at George’s house every Friday night.  Now, the happy hours rotate from house to house, wherever the pink flamingos are set up.

Well that’s all well and good, but where is the disruption, where is the change in the status quo and why does it matter?  George changed our culture from maybe associating with the neighbors next door, to seeking out each family on the block and getting to know them.  We watch out for each other.  For example, after Hurricane Ike, we were without power for 8 days, but our street was the first one cleared of trees and debris because we, as a neighborhood, started at one end of the street and went from house to house to make sure everyone was OK and then cleared debris.

As you can see, George’s experiences as a disruptor weren’t always high-profile, national security events, and they didn’t always involve a staff of planners and months of preparation.  He just did what it took to change things for the good.  That’s why I like to work with disruptors – they make things better.

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