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Shh! Do Not Disturb—Disruptive Thinking Going On

Dave Peterson | Jan. 28, 2014

More and more, the marketing world is discussing the concept of disruptive thinking and how to apply it in their organizations. This requires a revolution. Luke Williams, well-renowned innovation strategy guru, comments on his website, disruptive-thinking.com, “In a business world of nonstop change, there's only one way to win the game: transform it entirely.”1

Going Against the Grain
What can you do to shake things up? Companies like Kickstarter, Little Miss Matched and Dwolla didn’t come to market because their founders asked conventional questions such as, “Who has an idea for improving the company?” or “How are we going to increase sales?” These innovative firms exist because disruptive, perhaps even uncomfortable, questions were asked.

Educator Adam Webster has developed a variety of creative thinking techniques that combine technology, innovation and imagination to help his students become more creative learners. In his blog post, “The Disruptive Peacock, or Why the ‘wrong’ Way Might Be the Best Way,” Webster describes disruptive thinking as “a concept that is based upon doing the opposite of what is expected/what convention tells you will be successful.”2

So then, how can you tap into the creative right side of the brain and use disruptive thinking to revolutionize your products and services? The following are some actions to consider.

Identify Perceptions
Start with perceptions or perceiving is believing. How is your company perceived externally by its customers, as well as internally by your team? Some quick research online may provide an understanding of what your clients (e.g., SocialMention, CompetePulse, Google Alerts or even comments on your company’s website) and employees (e.g., JobBuzz.TimesJobs, Glassdoor) are saying about you. Forewarned is forearmed. It is worth the time investment.

Challenge the Status Quo
Once you are armed with insight from customers, current and former employees, perhaps even vendors and former clients, invite the corporate strategy, product and marketing teams to a disruptive thinking session. Bring some unexpected, open-ended questions to the table such as:

  • What are the entrenched industry beliefs about what customers want? What if the opposite was true?
  • If you could only work on one project for a year to transform the business, what would it be and why?
  • What causes more issues: our products, our processes or our people? How could we fix this?
  • What would be your dream testimonial from a key customer?
  • How can our services be turned into physical products? How can our products be turned into a service?

An important benefit from this activity is when teams are encouraged to question assumptions, their ideas often exceed expectations in number and creativity.

The Disruptive Pitch
The final stage, to paraphrase Williams, is once you have focused on some feasible ideas—perhaps changing how the company, a product or service is perceived—it is time to transform them into practical solutions. It is time for the Disruptive Pitch.

There is no doubt that you now have to put your sales hat on and convince both your internal and external audiences. Be prepared, as most people will not support a disruptive solution because it’s disruptive—they will support it because they believe it will deliver value.

And you’re going to need a lot more than a basic graphic presentation to earn that trust. The final approach of gaining acceptance of this concept is a set-up that takes your audience from their initial thought of, “Why should I care about this?” through the middle of the pitch, “I’m curious to see where this is going,” to the final crescendo of, “Hey, this is incredible. How can we make this actionable?”

Disruptive thinking, used in the right situations, can be a fantastic problem-solving tool that will make you a revolutionary thinker.

What disruptive techniques have you seen or used? Share them here and get the ideas flowing!

[1] Luke Williams, Disrupt, www.disruptive-thinking.com.
[2] Adam Webster, "The Disruptive Peacock, or Why the ‘wrong’ Way Might Be the Best Way," The Creativity Post, March 29, 2012.