disruptive disruption

Disrupt or Be Disrupted: Eight Principles of Disruptive Innovation

June 27, 2014
Success today isn't just about innovation. It isn’t just about improving products and making things better. It's about disruption and reinvention.

Back in the early '90s, Polaroid was the undisputed king of instant photography. No one else came close.

Polaroid cameras were a staple on every vacation, at every graduation and birthday party. There was at least one snapping shots at just about every relevant event in everyone's pre-millennial lives.

The company was a fixture, permanent and bulletproof. Nothing could shake it.

During that same era, Samsung (IW 1000/14) was at the top of its market too, as the undisputed king of bottom-shelf electronics. Across the globe, the name "Samsung" was synonymous with high-volume, low-quality, affordable appliances and technologies -- a label that seemed as permanent and unchangeable as Polaroid's reign.

"Deliberate disruption is the only path to sustainable growth and success." -Josh Linkner, author of "The Road to Reinvention."

But of course, things have changed.

Now Samsung, of course, is a world-renowned maker of some of the highest quality gadgets, appliances and TVs in the world. Meanwhile, Polaroid has withered, hammered by bankruptcy, layoffs, dwindling markets and a brand that seems almost forgotten in the digital photography revolution.

Between the two hides a fundamental truth about modern business: success today isn't just about innovation. It isn’t just about improving products and making things better. It's about reinvention. It's about challenging your own success.

It's about disruption.

Or at least that's what author Josh Linkner argues in his new book, "The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation."

"We can no longer rely on the past as a game plan for winning," Linkner insists. "Deliberate disruption is the only path to sustainable growth and success."

The lesson, he says, is simple: "disrupt or be disrupted."

Eight Principles

To help companies make this move, Linkner grounds his book with "eight principles that define the reinvention ethos." A kind of checklist for the brave.

Innovation like this, Linkner notes, isn't without risks and shouldn't be taken lightly.

"Taking on these principles may require you to abandon some ideas you've held for years," he warns.

"That's good," he says.  "Letting go of deeply held beliefs and venturing into uncharted waters is a difficult task, but it’s an essential one for innovators."

  • Let go of the past: "The past is a great teacher, but it's a horrible master. Living in the clutches of the past can shackle your imagination and relegate you to thinking small."
  • Encourage courage: "You'll never instill the spirit of reinvention in your team by making people afraid to express their ideas."
  • Embrace failure: "We have to carefully nurture ideas through numerous trials and adjustments to bring them to harvest. Therefore, you need to encourage everyone on your team to think of failure as essential nourishment for innovation."
    These eight principles frame Linkner's argument in "The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation," published this year by Jossey-Bass.
  • Do the opposite: " Leaders who have experienced the pinnacles of success have dared to zig while everyone else zags. Doing the opposite—upending expectations, pushing through boundaries, running toward the thing everyone else is running from—is critical to stand out from the crowd."
  • Imagine the possibilities: " When you're looking for powerful ways to reinvent your business, your team, your life, you have to be willing to close your eyes sometimes and imagine possibilities that don't yet exist."
  • Put yourself out of business: "Ultimately, companies that are unwilling to 'kill their darlings' and create a new version of success with either fail completely or evolve begrudgingly, after it's too late to capitalize on their previous success. "
  • Reject limits: "As a disruptor, you will constantly be met with resistance. The path forward involved crushing supposed limits, refusing to accept the reflexive no, and unleashing an unwavering belief that you will prevail."
  • Aim beyond: Don't let the past or even the present mislead you into taking a losing shot. Do your research, know your data, and then use that understanding to project your path forward.
  • About the Author

    Travis M. Hessman | Editor-in-Chief

    Travis Hessman is the editor-in-chief and senior content director for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest. He began his career as an intern at IndustryWeek in 2001 and later served as IW's technology and innovation editor. Today, he combines his experience as an educator, a writer, and a journalist to help address some of the most significant challenges in the manufacturing industry, with a particular focus on leadership, training, and the technologies of smart manufacturing.

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