How to Think Like A Disruptor

Manostaxx - Industrial Management Consulting
Manostaxx – Industrial Management Consulting

I recently heard a former executive of Netflix speak passionately about how to disrupt business as usual. The take home message is we’ve entered a new age where the speed of change today is the slowest it will be in our lifetime. Think about that insight for a moment. For many of us, that reality sends a jolt of excitement through our nervous system. Now more than ever we need to use brains, guts and an action-oriented mindset to ensure our businesses don’t become the status quo. The twin forces of cloud computing and mobile connectivity are creating massive, yet hard-to-predict opportunities where there will be winners and losers.

Here are three shortcuts to think and act like a disruptor:

Intelligent Failure

Stop worrying about the rate of failure because you can afford a lot of failures if they’re cheap. As the saying goes, “fail fast, fail cheap and move on”. To fail intelligently, you need to focus on three simple rules. First, know what success looks like and doesn’t look like. I’m always surprised at the lack of a clear outcome. Deciding what not to focus on can also limit the uncertainty. Second, convert assumptions into knowledge and learning. This is a much smarter use of time than trying to prove how right you are. Finally, codify and share what’s been learned with a process known as ‘After Action Reviews’ (AAR). Pioneered by the military to ensure continuous learning, the process involves asking – 1. What did you intend to happen? 2. What happened? 3. What are the lessons learned?

Ripple Intelligence

Can you navigate different trends, changes, and contexts that can disrupt an industry or business, for better or worse? The entrepreneur Elon Musk has ripple intelligence, which is the ability to see the interactions of business contexts like ripples moving across a pond. He has a vivid imagination, obsessive focus, and deep curiosity about the world and business in particular. He is brave not just in his words but his actions, and he uses ripple intelligence in a systematic way for moving fast. One of the best ways to develop this intelligence is to step outside your normal orbit and have a point of view about the ideas, trends, and issues that keep you awake at night, as well as the ones that excite you. Done well, this can help you anticipate hidden opportunities and catch the next big wave before others do.

Think 10 x, not 10%

When was the last time you set a challenge for yourself that pushed you to deliver more than you thought was humanly possible? Most people think about how they can grow by 10% or 20%, not by a factor of 10. 10 x thinkers are hardwired to think bigger and bolder, whether it’s wiping out malaria in the next ten years or making space tourism a reality. They have an eye on the future and can spot an unmet opportunity quickly before others.

You don’t have to be a CEO or run a startup to think 10 x. It’s about taking control of your vision rather than someone else hiring you to fulfil theirs. Get started, have a clear destination, fail fast, test ideas lightly and often, and know that those who think 10 x hold two beliefs: 1. problems can’t be solved with yesterday’s thinking, and 2. you have the resources to achieve your goals.


To thrive in the future, you will have to find the guts to change your business model two or even three times in order to remain viable. The bad news is, you’re probably not going to learn this at business school. As a CEO said to me recently, “if it’s not broke, break it.”

Terence Mauri is an author and entrepreneur, his new book The Leader’s Mindset: How To Win In The Age of Disruption is a global bestseller – described by MIT as ‘a fine read for anyone looking to take their leadership skills to the next level’.

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