Luke Williams at World Innovation Forum (a review)

Luke Williams, Author of Disrupt

Luke Williams, Author of Disrupt

The following is a review of Luke Williams talk at the recent World Innovation Forum. Roving reporter and colleague Dr. Orin Davis gives Luke high marks as both a speaker/entertainer, AND as an innovation expert, high praise indeed. I’d not heard of Luke Williams, apparently he’s a fellow at Frog Design, an author, and a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business. I’m putting his “Disrupt” on my reading list. Here’s Orin’s report:


Disrupt Yourself!  Luke Williams at the World Innovation Forum

by Orin Davis, Phd

I note in jest that what Luke Williams primarily proved at his WIF talk is that showing pictures of babies doing really cute things, like trying to dance to Beyoncé’s “All the Single Ladies,” gets a lot of attention, puts a break in the monotony of talk-after-talk-after-talk, and gives a happy parent yet another excuse to show off his kids.  And yes, the kids are cute, and he did tie them in quite well, so points to Williams for an interesting talk and providing the daily dose of “Awwwww!”

The real primary merits of Williams’s talk were in the fact that he tackled one of the biggest questions in innovation: how does a company, especially a successful one, actually attempt to innovate in any way beyond the incremental?

The problem for successful companies is that they need to maintain whatever is keeping them successful, and any moves to create the next awesome product could interfere with the profit-driving engine that they have.  The trouble is, at the peak is when a company is most vulnerable to disruption precisely because they have an inertia problem.  If another company appears with something disruptive, the established company will have a hard time getting itself in motion to dig the trenches and fight back.  Williams had a number of suggestions for how a company can get in gear and disrupt itself!

The key, according to Williams, is to stop activity and force strategic introspection (“You can’t stick your hand into a running engine to change the fan belt!”).  Then, do five things:

  1. Craft a disruptive hypothesis
  2. Define a disruptive market opportunity
  3. Generate several disruptive ideas
  4. Shape a disruptive solution
  5. Make a disruptive pitch

With limited time, Williams focused primarily on crafting a disruptive hypothesis, for which he made several suggestions regarding the questions a company can ask.

What can you scale?  For example, Williams pointed out that most traditional cellphones have 15 buttons.  What if a phone had only one button (iPhone)?  For a recent example that I encountered, people often have to go to multiple social media sites to post their stuff.  What if they could do it from a single location (e.g., Buffer,Hootsuite [my two personal favorites])?  These apps are disrupting the social media business model by reducing the number of visits to social media sites (which means fewer ads seen, etc.) while providing serious convenience for marketers, bloggers, and curators of internet content.

What if the things that are standard aren’t there?  That is, what are the cliché attributes, and what if they aren’t there?  What are the price clichés, and what if things could cost differently?  A look at Chris Anderson’s book, Free, will give you a whole list of examples of how companies disrupted the market by answering these questions.  In fact, Williams pointed out that there are three main places where there are assumptions that can be shot down to create a disruptive innovation: interaction, product, and price.  I note that companies can look for interactions between objects (KILN’s IdeaKeg comes to mind as a good tool for this [unsolicited, personal opinion]), reconsider products by what they wish things could do, and think about what they would rather pay for the services they get (usually, the answer is: nothing! [or close to it]).

There is a great deal more about all of these topics in Luke Williams’s websiteblog, and book.  Get disruptive!

Posted in Books & Reviews, Creative Problem Solving (CPS), Entrepreneurial, Innovation, Public Speaking