After the first time I used Uber instead of a calling or hailing a cab, I knew that this simple app and these friendly drivers who were looking to make a little extra money on the side would disrupt an industry that had not changed in decades. The cab industry has forever been Ubered. While the cab companies may fight back with legal action and bureaucracy, it's a lost cause unless they choose to Uber themselves and fundamentally shift the way people book, pay for and engage with taxi drivers.

Blockbuster was disrupted by Netflix and Redbox. Starbucks disrupted the entire coffee industry. Apple disrupted the mobile phone, music and ... well, you get the idea.

Today, if you're not disrupting your industry, you're in danger of being disrupted. The "status quo" just doesn't cut it when new ideas and innovative thinking are all around us. Sound intimidating? Overwhelming? Far too creative for your left-brained, analytical, operational, bottom-lined mind?

Fear not. You do not have to be born with innate creative abilities in order to disrupt. In fact, disruption doesn't happen with creativity and innovative thinking alone. Disruption only happens when great ideas can be put into action.

It turns out that Innovation can, in fact, be taught.

In their new book, The Innovator's Method, Jeff Dyer and Nathan Furr outline the process innovators go through and the skills needed for companies to disrupt their industry. It starts with insight, or more specifically, "The ability to connect seemingly unrelated ideas and put them together in new ways".

In the case of Uber, the idea that you could use the proximity or GeoLocation services of your mobile device to more efficently get a ride was the insight. Theodore Levitt once said, "People don't want to buy a quarter inch drill, they want to make a quarter inch hole". In the case ofUber, people didn't want a cab-ride experience, they needed a fast and economical way to get around ... without a car or waiting for public transportation.

Having an insight, however is not enough. You need to clearly define the problem: "What job needs to be done?" Before Uber, there were several attempts at making the taxi experience better. Apps such as "Taxi Magic" tried to reduce the hassle of knowing which cab company to call and ordering a cab. But that was the wrong prolem to solve if you want to disrupt the taxi industry. Apps like "Taxi Magic" were good, but they only slightly improved the existing process. Uber framed the problem better--"How do we reduce or eliminate the wait time AND substantially reduce the cost of transportion?"

With the right framing of a problem, you can look for solutions and others who have solved similar problems outside your particular industry. This leads to building the right business models and scale of the disruptive business.

Jeff Dyer and Nathan Furr's point is that this methologoy and associated "ah ha" moment isn't reserved for right-brain thinkers and creative types. You can learn how to gain these insights and associations through diciplined questioning, observation and networking outside of your peer groups for breakthrough ideas.

Jeff Dyer recently gave a talk at the Harvard Business Review Blog Network and gave specific company examples. While I'm not a big fan of slideware webinar presentations, the examples used were insightful and supported the premise and methodology outlined in their book. My favorite quote from Jeff Dyer during this webinar was, "Novel and useful ideas are not valuable until they are successfully implemented in your company."

That's really the point. Disruption is not about having the best idea or even thinking differently about a problem. It's about successfully implementing ideas inside your company that lead to new, scalable business models. Having a great idea is only one part of the equation. It's the act of delivering on a great idea that is truly disruptive. So don't just innovate ... deliver on your vision and build a successful business model to ensure long-term viability.

Published on: Nov 13, 2014
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