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This term ‘disruptive innovation’ isn’t new. It has been around since the beginning of time. But right now it is a term used by Gerd Leonard (a famous futurist) who uses it to describe how things will be in the future.
Just to clear things up from the start – disruptive innovation, is not disruptive advertising. Disruptive advertising is something that is constantly poked in your face to get your attention. Disruptive innovation is more about the ‘process of creativity’.
So what actually is it?
Ever seen or been on a trip to India or Africa? These people have disruptive innovation coming out of every pore in their body. They see something and see an opportunity, though it may be transient, they take the risk and see if they can make something of it. For example, there are many street sellers in the streets of some of the main cities in the country. These people seem to be wandering with their bags of goods trying to sell to anyone and everyone, suddenly a bus appears from nowhere and they climb on board or on the back or even on the roof, and what are they doing up there? Selling their stuff to people there…these people are the grandparents of disruptive innovation.
Disruptive innovation is all about changing the market place. For example the first automobile didn’t change the horse and cart market, it was only for the rich. Later when the horse and cart era finished, the automobile could seriously become disruptive because everyone wanted a car, but which car was up to the marketers.
So the question is how can we use it in our own learning or business situations?
Disruptive innovation is when you have some skills in learning your subject e.g. English, but are also willing to jump on anything that comes your way to use it and get better at it. E.g. someone English speaking invites you to dinner – you just go no hesitation, you talk to the stranger next to you – in English, you know the shopkeeper does speak you language but you burst out in English. Here ‘disruptive innovation’ means you are taking every situation you can and turning it into an opportunity to create some kind of improvement or change.
Disruptive innovation tells us that the world is moving so fast that it is very difficult to create something completely and totally new and unheard of before. However what you can do is look at what is out there and take it and turn it into something new. Disrupt the flow of that product by taking it and adding some other feature or aspect to it. This is the true nature of modern creativity. Forget about inventing the wheel, someone has already done it.
Another interesting point about disruptive innovation:
I have a good friend who is a kindergarten teacher. She told me about an activity she did once with her 3 year olds. She asked them all to take some cardboard boxes and paste and cellotape and make something that they liked. They were happy to do that. But of course they are only 3 years old, so their attention span was really short. So after they said that they were finished or half finished, she got them to put the half-finished object into a box. The next day the children all sat on the mat and she gave out the half-finished objects to the class again but this time to other children to finish. The results were very interesting indeed. The second batch of children suddenly had something to start with. They had to decide what they thought it could become and then get more cellotape and boxes etc to continue with it until it was finished.
This is in effect what we need to do. Always look around you and consider that all the innovations we have in our life right now are actually only half finished. Then you have something to do, something to truly create, and so much easier than inventing the wheel.
Disruptive innovation is about taking advantage of the situations that are presented to you. You need to be quick though, because that bus leaves in 30 seconds, and you don’t know if there will be another one coming soon or not!
So try this. If a 3 year old can do it, so can you. And/or tell me what you think.