Five principles of creative disruption

Disruption is increasingly the norm for brands today. Every year, as our digital and physical worlds merge, more barriers to competition come down. Entire industries are being revolutionized by challenger brands that didn’t exist a few years ago. Just think of car rentals, taxis, and hotels. No one would have anticipated how rapidly Zipcar, Uber, and Airbnb would disrupt the foundations of these traditional business models.

So how can we prepare for this new age of creative disruption? Brands must shift their thinking when it comes to innovation. Instead of seeing this new wave of disruption as a threat, the most agile brands will view it as a source of endless opportunity to not only reinvent themselves, but the world around them as well.

And while there are no tried and tested formulas for innovation, there are some principles that we can follow to create an environment where big ideas can thrive.

1. Frame the question, not the answer

The key to innovation is more than just a process. It’s about creating a culture of constant reinvention with problem solving at its core. As a Frenchman, I know very well about the expertise involved in taking this approach. The French constantly try to find fault, always seeing the world through a half-empty glass. It’s this philosophy that businesses should embrace for every project they undertake. They should be obsessive about identifying the right problems before creating the most innovative solutions. A problem well defined is a solution half formed.

2. Don’t schedule your ideas

Where do you have your best ideas? Probably not at your desk. So you have to inspire colleagues to think about solutions all the time, especially when they are not in the office. Brief them on the problem, then give them the freedom to come up with solutions wherever they’re at their most creative.

3. Think outside the group session box, and mix teams to build ideas

When it comes to creating a fertile environment for big ideas, don’t rely on brainstorming sessions. Don’t get me wrong, they can be extremely useful, but not everyone feels comfortable and uninhibited in these environments. Ask employees to think about a concept before you meet in a group. The brainstorm session is much more efficient for building and refining ideas, than for inspiring them.

And why exclude colleagues who might be some of your most creative—those in accounting or those sweeping the floors, perhaps?

4. Let brand be your master

A strong brand personality, both differentiated and relevant, is key to success, as it will serve both as a filter and inspiration for any new ideas. If the brand isn’t strong, innovation will undoubtedly suffer.

5. Take risks in the real world

Once you’ve developed your ideas, test them in the real world. Prototyping allows us to take risks and boosts our chances of success thanks to incremental improvement. So don’t only rely on focus groups. After all, people don’t buy concepts—they buy products, services, and experiences.


This article was originally published by M&M Global (22 April 2015).