Yesterday, at the Rethink Music conference in Boston, I attended an especially ReThink-inspiring session called “Disruptive Innovation,” a workshop led by NuevoStage.com Co-Founder & CEO Max Wessel and innovation researcher James Allworth (see tiny bios below).
“Disruptive Innovation” is a new term for me, although a Berklee student explained it to me at about 60 mph in the hallway before the session.
It seems it’s a subset of innovation, where a simplified version of some currently successful technology starts at the ‘bottom of the market’ and eventually rises ‘up the market’ to disrupt (and displace) its more established competitors.
Sound familiar?? It’s the Eve of Innovation!!! I mean, the business/technology equivalent of the movie “All About Eve” with Bette Davis and Ann Baxter in which the established star is ousted by a young upstart.
The term “Disruptive Innovation” was coined by Clayton Christensen who has a great 2-minute video explanation in case you don’t have time to watch “All About Eve” and “A Star is Born” or actually want to know what what disruptive innovation is.
The ReThink Music “Disruptive Innovation” event yesterday was basically a think-tank exercise, where participants split into 4 or 5 breakout groups, each group invented a new app or platform that would solve a current problem in the music business and then we presented these new platforms to one another. Our specific focus was solving problems related to live shows, recording, distribution, marketing etc.
It was a fun exercise, and the platforms we came up with all solved problems I actually have and would happily pay someone to solve – though I doubt any of us will invest in the long process of implementing, testing and launching them.
But I hadn’t realized the impact of the think-tank exercise on my thinking until this morning when I sat down to regroup and realized I’d internalized the process of dispassionately identifying problems as a means to illuminate solutions – in other words, to look at the problems for what they tell us about themselves. This was part of what Wessel and Allworth asked us to do and it wasn’t just a productive exercise, apparently it got me rethinking.
It also feels so much better to look as problems as a source of inspiration rather than a source of frustration.
My takeaway? New innovations in technology may not solve all my problems, but thinking like a innovator may get me closer to solving them myself.
And, man, I gotta watch that movie again!!!*
*P.S. Thanks to my friends on my Facebook Official Page for helping me remember which movie I was talking about. Plus all the juicy tidbits you added like: “Fasten your seatbelts – it’s gonna be a bumpy night!” – Bette Davis
TINY BIOS: Max Wessel is one of the co-founders of “NeuvoStage” a web platform currently in the beta stage that’s built to connect empty performance spaces with performers. James Allworth is a Senior Researcher at the Forum for Growth and Innovation at Harvard Business School. Bette Davis was a great American actress born in 1908 and died in 1989.
You said ” I’d internalized the process of dispassionately identifying problems as a means to illuminate solutions – in other words, to look at the problems for what they tell us about themselves.” Could you give an example of that, i.e., how it differs from just thinking “what can I do to solve this problem?”
Yes – and great question!
I’d taken that word ‘DO’ out of the equation for the moment, so instead of actively moving forward to the solution, I sat with the ‘problem’ and described it more to myself – just noticed it dispassionately. What I noticed in the moment was that I was just observing the ‘problems’ but in a more, “hmm … interesting” way. And I wish I could give you a good, concrete example, but it was more a feeling — the feeling of not rushing to ‘solve,’ of not beating myself up with the feeling that I hadn’t already solved it.
Ahhh … but wait … it’s coming back to me now (or maybe forward)…
The next thing I noticed … while doing a mindless task (putting away some clothes) … was that I was observing to myself that I want a system for storing, cataloging, describing and subfoldering images – in which I can see, both via image and word, what ‘belongs’ with what and what is a spin-off or version of what.
In the past I’d think of this with frustration: that Filemaker can do the organizing-and-describing part of the work, and iPhoto does a pretty good job of the storing but I can’t connect them; and I know that if I mention the problem someone will rush in with some solution they think is perfect and which I’ll invest hours learning and then discover it WON’T do what I need, blah blah blah (just talking about this is making me tense).
Right … see? Now I’m all tense.
But this morning, I was just letting the problem spin itself out in words and vague images on the left side of my … whatever-it’s-called — inside-screen — and I was letting an amorphous solution-ness just sit there on the right side of my inner-screen, and I didn’t try to connect them. And they didn’t cause me any frustration.
So, do I have a solution yet? No, but I realized that by letting the problem spin out more before interrupting it with solutionizing, I’ll have a better idea what it is so that when solution-type ideas start floating around, I’ll have a better sense of whether they’re relevant to my problem. I also noticed that by really trying to describe it to myself, the words I used started giving me a better idea of what my real problem is.
But maybe most importantly, I avoided feeling stressed and like I should “do” something right now. What more will come of that, I don’t know.
So it may be that it just puts that moment of “stop” in the equation. Which … interestingly … reminds me of the foundation of the Alexander method. Hmmm…
Your thoughts on this?
That actually sounds a lot like a conversation at my day-job today. (As you know) I work in a big IT dept at a university, and today’s meeting was about how we could get better about doing our job of providing technology to the faculty and students. One big point was that the part of a project where the IT people work out with the customer what needs to happen to give her/him/them what they need should be the *longest* part of the project – b/c we too often build a wonderful, elegant solution that just doesn’t work for the customer!
So yes, it sounds like you are saying to make space for getting a full picture of what your need is, before starting to throw solutions at it. One other thing we discussed related to that is understanding that needs/issues/problems can be a moving target, so it’s important to get a sense of what parts of the task are essential vs what would be handy – and go for the addressing the essential bits first so that you end up with something useful even if it’s not the swiss army knife solution!