Disruptive Innovation in 19 Not-So-Easy Steps

May 15, 2014

I ran across Chunka Mui (well, his writing, anyway) when looking into autonomous cars recently; he has a 7 part article on how disruptive autonomous cars like the Google car will be, to all kinds of industries: ERs, insurance, real estate and others. His ideas are very similar to the Lean Startup protocol, so I thought you might be interested in them. He heads a consulting firm called The Devil’s Advocate with offices in Chicago and the Sacramento area. He’s not specifically an agile guy, but he did say “Small and agile beats big and slow, but big and agile beats anyone.

As usually happens with all things consulting, he has 8 points on this, and 3 points on that, and 8 more points on the other thing, all of which are pretty good, and I’m just going to lay them out without elaborating on them. If they intrigue you, links are provided to the Forbes articles from whence they originate:

Eight Rules for large companies that want to out-innovate startups:


  1. Context is worth 80 IQ points. (Go, UX!)
  2. Embrace your doomsday scenario.
  3. Start with a clean sheet of paper: Start small (after thinking big; disruptive to your core business).
  4. First, kill all the finance guys (take an iterative approach to finance).
  5. Get everyone on the same page (it’s worth taking the time to do this and still the most disrupted will not come on board).
  6. Build a basket of killer apps – really a nest of 3-5 fledgling ideas, then see which ones take off…. Learn fast; take action based on analysis.
  7. A demo is worth a 1000 pages of business plan (less planning, more testing).
  8. Remember the devil’s advocate – remain open to hearing uncomfortable answers.

Three Design Factors for the devil’s advocate 

  1. Commit to an explicit process for the devil’s advocate at the very beginning.
  2. A devil’s advocate is not an idea killer, s/he is a risk identifier.
  3. S/He must be a well-respected person that participates all the way along, not just the end of a project.

Eight Mistakes in disruptive innovation

  1. Don’t think like a venture capitalist – you end up backing only stuff the core business would not see as a threat.
  2. Don’t aim low – resist low-hanging fruit or easy wins, or incremental improvements.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – you need to keep identifying opportunities and game changers (i.e., pivot or perish).
  4. Don’t spread leadership too thin (you must have top leadership backing for disruptive innovation).
  5. Don’t underestimate corporate anti-bodies (to change).
  6. Don’t give up too early (Use pot odds – think about both the size of the additional investment and the size of the potential market.
  7. Don’t get too invested in an idea (you can’t let disproven ideas run forever, emphasis mine, because you need to prove/disprove them as well as cull the zombies).
  8. Properly manage failure: noble vs ignoble failure – know which is which – and neither celebrate nor excoriate failure too much.

If you’re not Chunka Muified enough by now, he has a couple books that look intriguing that I intend to read: Killer Apps and Billion Dollar Lessons. Happy disrupting; happy innovating.