30. Spark Transformation. Be disruptive!

“Think what no one else is thinking, and do what no one else is doing.”

Easier said than done! And yet this is how Luke Williams draws his reader in in the first few pages of his 2010 book, Disrupt.


One of the many things I adore about being an advertising major is that our required class reading never feels like…well, required class reading. Dave Allen assigned Disrupt to us for our Digital Brand and Social Web Strategy class. In all honesty, I found the book hard to put down. With a writing style and simple (and humorous) voice that’s easy to follow, Williams had me hooked by the very first page. What Williams teaches and explains throughout Disrupt is a rather simple idea, and yet not enough businesses and companies are practicing it.

To put it plainly, Williams wants businesses to make bold moves. Think of something that will most likely seem completely ridiculous at first, and then pursue it. Too many businesses are making tiny, incremental changes to their brand or product thinking it will set them apart from the competition. When too many businesses are making tiny changes, it’s almost as if they’re all staying the same. No one will really stand out. Disrupt explains that “disruptive thinking is not so much about how to spot and react to disruptive changes in technology and the marketplace; it’s about how to be the disruptive change.” Williams teaches his readers how to do just that.

Throughout the 5 chapters of the book, Williams walks the reader through a step-by-step process for successfully shaping a truly disruptive idea and product. Each chapter covers different stages, which are as follows:

Five Stages of Disruptive Thinking

  1. Craft a disruptive hypothesis.
  2. Define a disruptive market opportunity.
  3. Generate several disruptive ideas.
  4. Shape them into a single, disruptive solution.
  5. Make a disruptive pitch that will persuade internal or external stakeholders to invest or adopt what you’ve created.

Each stage is fully explained in each chapter, even giving the reader little exercises to help hone their own disruptive idea.

One of my favorite things about this book is the examples Williams shares of businesses that have been thinking disruptively since the beginning. The cutest example is definitely Little Miss Matched, a sock company for young girls that sells mismatching socks in sets of 3 (yes, on purpose), as opposed to the usual pair of socks.

At the end of each Disrupt chapter, Williams reveals a little more about how Little Miss Matched was created using disruptive thinking. It’s almost like motivation to get to the end of the chapter to find out what happens next. I definitely enjoyed it. Other examples of disruptive businesses include restaurant El Bulli, a 30-course dinnertime adventure in Spain that has been known to have at least a year-long waiting list. Unfortunately, the world-famous restaurant served its final masterpiece last July.

I’d recommend Disrupt to anyone, really, but it should be a must-read for anyone interested in advertising, branding or business in general. It’s simply an awesome read!

Along with being an author, Luke Williams is the Adjunct professor of Innovation at NYU Stern School of Business and works at frog design. I can’t wait to see what he writes next!

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