Print This Post Print This Post

It is unrealistic to expect upside down disruptive innovation in any business. But the absence of disruptive thinking may be dangerous. Both things are not the same.

Disruptive thinking requires a degree of critical thinking, a willingness to challenge the status quo, to challenge default positions. It needs some discipline in the kind of questions you ask, how you reframe problems and how you avoid mind traps that will always show that there is nothing wrong with carrying on doing things as before, particularly if this is successful.

The good news is that both disruptive thinking and critical thinking can be taught. They can be injected in the organization even when this is a ‘traditional’ and perhaps conservative one. When people experiment with some disruptive ideas, they can see the benefits. Often, this is the first pass to getting out of an impasse, a fixed, ‘more of the same’ way of doing things. This is what my team does with our Disruptive Ideas Accelerator. It injects the thinking and facilitates the experiments.

Asking an organization for total disruptive innovation is unrealistic and not very serious. Expecting some disruptive and critical thinking to be injected, is very realistic, very healthy and a leadership imperative today.

Many conferences and events under the banner of Disruptive Innovation, end up with a parade of speakers telling you about Skype (as if you did not know) and then anything that looks like an example of something that turned the market upside down. This is all very well, and perhaps a good learning about the topic. However, not many people in those parades are able to answer the question, ‘so what do I have to do in my organization to get in that league, or even to change gears towards that kind of thinking?’

Most of the answers are behavioural: what you need to do differently, what questions you need to ask. There are also safe experiments that one can try. But Critical Thinking needs to be installed first. If there were pills to induce Critical Thinking they should be put in the water supply of our companies. Unfortunately we are not there yet.

The alternative to organizational status quo is not disruptive innovation. It is Critical Thinking, Disruptive Thinking and Leadership who is forward thinking and courageous enough to experiment.

Keep up with the Daily Thoughts

Twitter Email


  1. Scott Fahlman

    There’s something to keep in mind when trying to create a disruptive change: Most such attempts fail, and when one does work, things usually get worse before they get better. The old way has had some time to mature, and is probably now as good as it is going to get; the new way is going to require lots of learning and tweaking before it can match, and perhaps surpass, the performance of the old way.

    So you’re not going to see much disruptive thinking in an impatient organization that punishes failure or one that looks only at short-term results. And it’s important to find ways to explore the new idea, without betting more than the organization can afford to lose.

    One of the things that new students learn in artificial intelligence courses (or used to learn) is the idea of “hill-climbing”. Suppose you’re in unmapped terrain and want to get to the highest ground possible. All you can see is your immediate surroundings. So you figure out which direction is (locally) uphill, and then you take a step in that direction. Keep doing this and you will get to the top of some hill. At this point, a step in any direction makes things worse.

    But this is only the top of some particular hill. There may be much higher hills around, but you can’t see them. The hill you have climbed depends on the place where you happen to have started. If somehow you can get a more global view of the terrain, you may be able to spot a mountain off to the southwest, and you may be able to see the path from here to there. If you can do that, it is worth going downhill for a while in order to reach this much better place.

    But if you’re in a group, you have to be able to persuade the others that you really have seen that mountain — that is’s not a mirage or hallucination — and that there really is a viable path from here to there. Your bosses and colleagues may not be fully convinced, but perhaps have enough confidence in your vision to take a gamble on exploring in that direction. But are they prepared to stay the course if things get much worse before they get better? Are they even willing to fund a small exploratory expedition in that direction?

    So disruption (or changing mountains) is a tricky business. Proceed with caution! But sometimes there is a big payoff for your organization, and maybe for you, and it’s worth the risk.. A well-run organization will find some way — some incentive structure — that can encourage people to look for big risks that are worth taking, and sometimes to take those risks.

  2. Sergio de la Calle

    I’m tired to repeat this same message within my organisation. Senior Managers are looking for to launch the next “Skype” but they don’t tolerate critical thinking within their Commitees!. In order not sound like a broken record I developed a TEDx talk about this subject title The eve Factor….so I take advantage to share as I would highly appreciate your feedback:

Would you like to comment?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To search my website, please use the form below.

  Daily Thoughts

September 27th, 2023

Redefining Talent Wealth

The war on talent McKinsey consultants started it with a book of the same title. By focusing on what it […]

September 8th, 2023

What I Learnt From The Monks: A Little Anthropology Of Leadership And Space On One Page

My friends, monks of a Benedictine monastery in the Highlands, Scotland, spend most of the time in silence. I mean, […]

August 23rd, 2023

Can We Rescue DEI From Its Trap (The Label)?

Most of the problems and challenges in organizations, together with most of the solutions, are behavioural in nature. It’s about […]

August 10th, 2023

Restructuring to force collaboration, is likely to create more anxiety than collaboration. Structural solutions for behavioural problems hardly work.

Sometimes restructuring is done with the intention of solving a collaboration problem. ´A people´ don’t talk to ´B people´; if […]

July 18th, 2023

The ‘Impossible To Disagree With’ School Of Management

‘Good leaders have empathy, respect employees and set the example. If you want to change things, you need to have […]

June 29th, 2023

Large scale change is not small scale change repeated many times. Small wins repeated are lots of small wins.

Large scale change, as a series of cascading small scale interventions (often under the philosophy of ‘small wins’) has dominated […]

June 6th, 2023

Culture change is not long and difficult. But we make it so…

I suppose the question is how long is long and how difficult is difficult? In general, business and organizational consulting have […]

May 19th, 2023

Value is an overused term in business and, as such, it’s becoming meaningless

Value, as usually used, means transactional monetary value. Usually it doesn’t mean intrinsic value, or value per se. For example, […]

May 4th, 2023

The importance of ‘critical thinking.’ Your own critical thinking is more effective at making your workplace better than any generic employee survey.

Build your own Employee Engagement argument for free. You can’t go wrong. Here are three baskets full of concepts: Basket […]

April 21st, 2023

´Busy-Ness’ Is A Trap

I went to a big conference where I was introduced by the chairman like this: “Welcome everybody. Lovely to have […]

April 14th, 2023

Training and culture change. The love affair that ends in tears.

It seems to be very hard for people to get away from the idea that if we just put individuals […]

April 11th, 2023

Teamocracies and Networkracies have different citizens: in-Habitants in team-work, riders in net-work

The old view of the organization is something close to the old concept of a medieval city, where citizenship was […]

April 5th, 2023

3 Ways To Get Approval From Your CEO Or Your Leadership Team

Way number 1: My team has developed these three options, A, B and C. Which one do you want us […]

March 29th, 2023

A Cheat Sheet To Create A Social Movement Tip = to shape organizational culture since both are the same.

Mobilizing people. This is another of the Holy Grails (how many have I said we have?) in management. Whether you […]

March 16th, 2023

Critical Thinking Self-Test: A 10 Point Health Check For Your Organization And Yourself. If any of these are a good picture of your organization, you need to put ‘critical thinking’ in the water supply.

Test yourself, and your organization. Do any of these apply? Doing lots, too fast without thinking. High adrenaline, not sure […]

March 9th, 2023

A culture of safety or a culture of training in safety?

Cultures are created by behaviours becoming the norm. Safety is at the core of many industries. Significant budgets are allocated […]

March 2nd, 2023

Empowerment is an output. If you can visualize it, you can craft it.

The real question is, what do you want to see happening so that you can say ‘people are empowered’? Employee […]

February 24th, 2023

A simple question will jumpstart your organization into change. It will also save you from months of pain spent reorganizing your people and teams.

The following line will short-cut months of (building) ‘alignment’, integration, reorganization, team building, coalition building, and any situation in which Peter, […]

February 20th, 2023

Lead Via Peer-To-Peer Networks – If you don’t lead via peer-to-peer networks, you’re only driving your car in first gear.

Peer-to-peer work, transversal, spontaneous or not, collaboration, peer-to-peer influence, peer-to-peer activities of Viral Change™ champions or activists, all of this is the […]

February 7th, 2023

Write a script, not a strategic plan

If you care about the journey and the place, you need a story. If you have a good, compelling one, […]

January 26th, 2023

3 self-sabotaging mechanisms in organizations

Organizations, like organisms, have embedded mechanisms of survival, of growth and also of self-sabotage. These are 3 self-sabotage systems to […]

January 10th, 2023

Who should be involved in culture change? All inclusive versus going where the energy is.

Many times, in my consulting work, I find myself facing a dilemma: Do I involve many people on the client’s […]

December 23rd, 2022

Tell what won’t change – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

In any change programme that any organization wants to start, they will start by thinking of the things that they […]

December 16th, 2022

Scale It – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

When creating effective change in any organization, there are 40 rules that, in my experience, are the key between success […]

December 5th, 2022

Assets & Strengths Base – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

For more than 30 years I have been involved in ‘change’ in organizations. Again and again, some fundamental principles, and often […]

November 25th, 2022

Campaign It… is 1 of my 40 rules of change

When you filter out the noise, when you try to extract the core, the fundamentals, those ‘universal rules’ of change […]

October 31st, 2022

Hybrid or not hybrid? That’s not the question…

Culture is the new workplace If you want to have a conversation about the future of work, the nature of […]

October 24th, 2022

‘Powered by Viral Change™’: A Social Transformation Platform for the organization of the 21st Century

When we started to work on Viral Change™, as a way to create large scale behavioural and cultural change, and […]

October 14th, 2022

Corporate tribes, intellectual ghettos and open window policies

We talk a lot about silos in organizations usually in the context of Business Units or divisions. But these are not […]

October 7th, 2022

Peer Networks are the strongest force of action inside the organization

Peer-to-peer works, transversal, spontaneous or not, collaboration, peer-to-peer influence, peer-to-peer activities of Viral Change™ champions or activists, all of this is […]