Be Disruptive: Get New Eyes

Everywhere I go people are talking about innovation and disruptive ideas. A hoard of consultants have gotten into the game by writing  piles of books, leading trainings, and knocking at your door…all to make you and your company the most innovative and disruptive company ever. (Notice that they’re not out there following their own advice and building the next Amazon.)

I’ve read bits and pieces of some of these books and even wound up helping run a couple of innovation workshops when I was part of the Wharton School. In case this sets you wondering, I was one of three Region Managers who oversaw the world for the Wharton Global Consulting Practicum.

I have noticed that most of the people hawking innovation, disruptive thinking, and similar break the mold ways of creating something new and wonderful are caught up in the engineering of it. Books and books and class after class are filled with how to do it methodologies.

There’s usually a crucial missing piece in these how-tos, a piece that leads to the most creative and disruptive ideas. This piece is a way of thinking, not engineering. So you don’t accuse me of dissing engineers, let me clarify that this thinking can appear in anyone no matter the field they work in, even if the field is one with green things growing in it.

This way of thinking  is captured nicely by two quite different creative people. Salvador Dali shared “surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” Marcel Proust suggested “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

It’s the view, the eyes, that need fixing. Eyes that have lost the ability to see a bigger picture. Eyes that automatically, without your realizing it, ignore much that passes in front of you. Eyes that in order to disrupt and innovate must have their blinders thrown aside.

Dali and Proust are geniuses at giving your brain a quick kick to knock your eyes off center and discover a view you’ve never seen before. A view that causes you to see things in a different way and consider other ways of thinking about them. And with these new eyes, this new view, and the creation of a disruptive new idea, it’s time for the engineers to figure out how to bring the vision to life.

In addition to receiving a regular kick to the brain from Dali, Proust, and similar people to unshackle my vision and get a new set of eyes, I travel. A lot. Perhaps the best thing about my Wharton years was selling and overseeing international projects. Spending time wandering in many countries in Africa, South America, the Middle East, and Europe does wonders for ensuring your eyes aren’t stuck and your view isn’t hemmed in by blinders.

Take the advice of Dali and Proust. Destroy the shackles that fence in your vision and find new eyes. Unleash your disruptive force. And during your travels take my advice: become a native and stay away from the places the tourists go.


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