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About this book

This book is a critical examination of the main ideas regarding disruptive change and startups. It systematically lays out the full set of challenges and tasks one needs to master in order for existing organizations to weather severe change or make a startup successful. Ian Mitroff outlines the protective actions business leaders must take to ensure their continued existence, providing a clear demonstration of the key roles leaders must assume such as Applied Epistemologist, Applied Ethicist, Applied Systems Thinker, Applied Social Psychologist, and Applied Crisis Manager, and how to perform these roles competently.
Citing cases such as Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb, this book uniquely analyzes the disrupting agent in emerging industries, which is crucial for success in today’s complex and turbulent world. It will be of value to students, academics, and entrepreneurs looking to develop a new product or service.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. It Is All About Assumptions: The Critical Role of an Applied Epistemologist

Disruptive Versus Evolutionary Change
Through examining three extremely important cases—Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb—this chapter illustrates the general kinds of assumptions one has to make in starting new businesses and keeping existing ones successful. Uber and Airbnb are especially noteworthy since they are the quintessence of organizations that have produced disruptive change.
A well-tested method known as Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing (SAST) for uncovering, challenging, and monitoring key assumptions and stakeholders that underlie key business plans is described in detail. In essence, assumptions are the presumed properties of key stakeholders.
Ian I. Mitroff

Chapter 2. Doing What Is Right: The Role of an Applied Ethicist

This chapter not only describes some of the major schools of ethics but uses them to uncover additional critical assumptions that startups and existing organizations often make to justify their existence. For instance, from the standpoint of Kantian Ethics, Facebook, Uber, and Airbnb were unethical because they did not subscribe to the following moral maxim:
Whenever the probability, however small, is such that a person will be harmed in any way by a product or service, whether it’s through its misuse or initial design, then the provider is obligated ethically to involve those stakeholders that are necessary to monitor and to remediate potential harmful effects.
Ian I. Mitroff

Chapter 3. Think Like a System: Be an Applied Systems Thinker

This chapter shows how the Jungian personality typology leads to a very different form of systems analysis that is applicable to all organizations. For instance, while traditional Venture Capitalists are primarily interested in (1) how soon a startup can pay back initial investment capital (narrow, short-term economic and technical concerns) and (2) whether an initial idea is truly revolutionary and visionary (broader, long-term economic and technical concerns), every organization also needs to pay attention to (3) the broader needs of its surrounding community (wider human concerns) and (4) the engagement and health of its workers and their families (personal concerns). Over the long haul, all four must work together seamlessly if any organization is to be successful.
Ian I. Mitroff

Chapter 4. Thinking Like a Crisis Manager

This chapter shows what all organizations need to do to be able to anticipate and plan for the broadest range and types of crises can now strike any organization. It shows how the Jungian personality typology leads to a broader, more comprehensive form of Crisis Management.
Ian I. Mitroff

Chapter 5. Wisdom: How the Leaders of Purpose-Driven Organizations Manage from Their Values

This chapter shows how the CEOs of “purpose-driven organizations” fundamentally manage in accordance with their basic values. In this way, they ensure the loyalty of their employees, customers, suppliers, and a wide range of stakeholders. For instance, the CEOs of “purpose-driven organizations” do not pursue growth and profits for their own sake. In short, they are not willing to do anything that will compromise their basic values.
The chapter also argues that if the CEOs of “purpose-driven organizations” choose to start businesses that are highly disruptive to existing industries, then it is highly likely they would set up special funds to help retrain workers for new jobs.
Ian I Mitroff

Chapter 6. Applied Epistemology, Part 2

This chapter uses the concept of Inquiry Systems (ISs) to reveal deeper aspects of SAST. SAST is fundamentally based on Dialectical Inquiry. That is, in order to ensure that one is not committing Errors of the Third Kind (“solving the ‘wrong problems’ precisely”), one must produce at least two very different versions of all-important problems.
Ian I. Mitroff

Chapter 7. Assumptions and Stakeholders Revisited

This chapter not only reviews some of the main findings of the book, but takes a deeper look at stakeholder analysis.
Most important of all, every business needs to set up special units whose primary job is to disrupt the business of an organization and its surrounding industry. The moral is, “Disrupt yourself before others do it to you!”
Ian I. Mitroff


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