A Short Guide to Sourcing Disruptive Ideas

Some ideas arrive like a bolt of lightning, but waiting for divine inspiration can be a risky approach. For most people, their best disruptive ideas are a culmination of clear strategy, targeted research and surrounding themselves with a culture of innovation.

Joe Brindle
by Joe Brindle
disruptive ideas

If you want to make changes to your business that are truly innovative, you need to be constantly on the lookout for disruptive ideas, both internally and externally. From documenting your own thoughts and reflections, to encouraging your team to share their insights when they occur, you likely already have a rich source of untapped ideas close at hand. Supplement this by looking to your wider industry, and even beyond your field to find theories, structures and ideas that inspire you to think even more broadly.

A holistic approach that combines many approaches is the best way to make sure that your tank is always full of potential game-changing solutions. Here are a few tried and tested ways to scout for disruptive ideas:

1. Keep a journal

This is one of the simplest and most fruitful sources of ideas, and it doesn’t require anything except a notebook (or notebook app). The key to getting this right is timing. You want to start writing a couple of ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ pages right when you wake up, or just before you go to bed. Write freely, and let yourself meditate on whatever challenges come to mind. It’s not about producing something exciting; you’re just watching where your mind wanders. After all, you never know what work your brain has been doing while you’ve been somewhere else.

2. Crowdsource from your team

Your people are your greatest resource, and the true experts on your service, product, and values-in-practice. It might seem obvious that they’re full of ideas, particularly if you make a point of welcoming suggestions and rewarding participation, but you’re probably still missing out on those spontaneous, unusual and easy-to-forget thoughts that happen during inconvenient moments. Make sure everyone has a place to easily log these “shower thoughts” – however small or fleeting – by investing in idea management software, and always reward your team for sharing their perspective.

3. Read widely

You might feel like the key to success lies in keeping up with trade publications, cutting-edge research in your field, or keynote speeches from business leaders. However, the true trick to sourcing disruptive ideas is reading away from the problem you’re trying to solve. From prose, to poetry, to unusual non-fiction titles, stepping outside your bubble and challenging yourself to relate to a new set of characters, challenges or environments is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Try picking up a selection of unusual magazines next time you’re at a station or in an airport – you never know what insight you might gain.

4. Understand your competition

There are good arguments for and against becoming too absorbed with what your direct competitors are up to if you’re trying to do something new, but there is an element of this approach that tends to be effective: look for their weaknesses. While it’s hard to compete on what someone else is doing very well, it’s much easier to identify where they’re falling down, and then work to make up the shortfall. Of course, you need to know why it’s necessary, and make sure it also fits within your company values, but assuming its a case of choosing priorities, focusing where others fail to pay attention can be one of the best ways to steer your ship in a strong, and surprising, direction.

5. Think architecturally

Architectural innovation is the act of taking a set of structures, principles or ideas from one context, and applying it to another. When sourcing disruptive ideas for your business – which are likely to also be disruptive ideas within your industry – it can be helpful to look at the ways other industries are making significant changes. Finding professional contexts that are both similar and very different to your own can give you a broad range of perspectives to learn from, as you pick and choose what strategies might work for you.

6. Don’t judge too soon

The thing about truly disruptive ideas is that initially they may seem too unusual or unlikely to work: that’s why they’re disruptive! Dare yourself to spend a little more time considering suggestions that you would normally dismiss on practical grounds. Is there even a nugget of inspiration to draw from the idea, even if it ultimately transforms into something else? Don’t be afraid to challenge, share, collaborate, evolve and iterate…you might end up somewhere completely unexpected.

Ultimately, disruptive ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere: it’s about what you do with them.

If you challenge yourself to stay open to unusual sources of inspiration, you’ll be far more likely to view your business as part of the wider world in which it exists. Think outside the box, and play with your ideas a little more before you put them under strict interrogation, and you might find that your new flexible approach leads you down an interesting path you might never have considered before.

Idea Drop is an idea management software that helps you capture and action your team’s most disruptive ideas. Get in touch using the chat box below to learn more about how you can implement disruptive change into your organisation.

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