By Agung Pascasuseno ; Photo : Club Madrid
The Downfall of Kodak signalling that companies nowadays need to be more flexible and adaptable in facing the rising complexity of the globalization era. Companies need to improve or expand their core competence so they will be able to transform their business model when the time is right to become a sustainable company. The key is to have the ability of disruptive thinking. This is the conclusion from the interview with Luke Williams, the author of “Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation”. Luke Williams is a leading consultant, educator, and speaker specializing in disruptive thinking and innovation strategy. Williams is a Fellow at Frog Design, one of the world’s most influential innovation companies, and Adjunct Professor of Innovation at NYU Stern School of Business.
1. Tell us about your background?
My background is from Australia originally, born in Melbourne, educated in Melbourne. I worked for 10 years in product development and marketing. Then I came to the US, Living in US for 10 years, first in San Fransisco and now in New York. The reason I came to US was to work with Frog Design, an innovation consulting firm. The role as Creative Director, for the last 8 years. Working with clients around the world for innovation strategies or products, brands, business model as well. In addition of what I’m doing at Frog Design I started teaching a course at New York University, school of business. Top ten business school in US. I Created curriculum, a course called innovation and design. Teaching business school student a process of innovation and creative thinking that they can apply in any business situation that they would encounter. For the last 2 years, I am a fellow at Frog Design which means I sometimes consultant speak on their behalf but not day to day anymore. I wrote book called Disrupt, that book was published in January 2011 in the US. At the moment I’m speaking about the book, running workshops speaking about disruptive innovation.
The first thing that I learned was how important creativity to drive progress and growth. Without new ideas and approaches there will be no progress. So I learnt to apreciate and valued what creativity could bring to the world and problems it could solve. That issue is the same worldwide, is not depends on culture. The second thing I learned was creativity, imagination, ideas, can be learned effectively by anybody, is not just a special talent that few people have. It’s a skill, just like learning tennis or golf. You know, the more you practice the better you get. I believe it’s the same for creative thinking and creativity.The third is I believe there is disconnect between what is taught in design school, creativity often taught there, and business school. There’s a huge gap and as a result there is not much conversation between the two group. In business both are extremely important. The strong judgement analytical thinking in business school and the fluid dynamic creative approach in design school. I really wanted to be contributor in filling that gap. This is why I wrote the book. To bridge that gap. The book doesn’t have any jargon in it. Its written for people who don’t have any background in design or creativity. It’s a book that anyone should be able to pick up and understand how to become creative. How to spark disruptive innovation. Innovation that really necessary for progress and growth. For company, industry, or even the entire country.
3. You mentioned about 5 steps, ways to transform the business, what are those 5 steps?
The 5 steps are.. The first you have to craft disruptive hypothesis. Intentional way that gets you thinking about a category, segment, or an industry moving in another direction. Once you have the hypothesis you need to define the market opportunity. You need to discover who will find the value of that hypothesis, provocative questions. The way you define is through costumer insight. The reason why most disruptive hypothesis don’t make it pass this stage isn’t because they lack distinctive or too radical but its because they lack costumer insight. The third step is creating an idea to put that opportunity into practice. There’s a big different between an idea and an opportunity. Opportunity is very broad and general. An idea is very concrete and specific. So you need a specific idea of how to put that opportunity into the market. Once you got that idea or several ideas, the forth step is to shape that idea into solution. Because there’s a big difference again between a solution and an idea. A solution is always practical, feasible. If it’s not, its not a solution. Your idea, when you have it, it might not be completely practical. You might need to shape and refine that idea, prototyping and experimenting with it. The fifth step is disruptive pitch. This is how you sell idea, is not how you sell your idea to consumer, long before that you need to sell that idea to someone who will invest in it. Either somebody in your business, whose control the money or if you’re an entrepreneur how to convince investors to invest in this solution so you can take it to the next level. Build a business case around it, get some market experiment, whatever you need to take it to next level. So the most effective way to pitch that solution, the framework for that is 9 minutes. I believe if you need longer than 9 minutes you haven’t thought your solution through. Less than 9 minutes is not enough time to really get the difference or the value of the idea
4. Interesting number, 9 minutes, not 10 or 11..
Yes there’s a good reason for that. If you give someone a 9 minutes target it encourages them to be very precise in their thinking and organization. If you say 10 minutes, is not very clear, maybe you will end up with 15 minutes. With 9 minutes it prompts the question why 9 minutes.
5. You mentioned about the shift from the information age to the creative age, why do we need to have the change, is there any urgency?
I think the dynamic of the world, the globalization has changed things in business a lot. So many of the certainty that you took for granted in business are no longer certain. An example: competition, we used to have very simple definition of who are our competitors, who are your partners and suppliers. Now that is all changing. Sometimes your competitors also have to be your partners or co-competition. I believe because things are changing so quickly. Many people are challenging the assumptions that we already have, these assumptions came from the industrial age, information age. Now we’re entering this increasing complexity many of this assumptions need to be evaluated and many of this industries need to be reinvented. Is not jus to survive but to thrive to the changes, this is why its important to develop a fluency with the skill of creative thinking. To constantly check your own perspectives and biases and see that new perspectives and see how things can change for the better.
6. You obviously have a lot of experiences dealing with executives, businesses, what are the difficulties, to transform the idea to solution, to the business practice?
The biggest challenge that I find with organization, as a consultant you can encourage them to take risk and come with ideas but its really up to them at the end of the day what they do with these ideas and where they go. So I think the first challenge is most of businesses are only developing ideas that support their current business model. So everyone in the organization is motivated to make that existing business run better. Improve the existing products and services, come up with new variation of products and services. That’s the biggest challenge. Because they’re heading to constrained narrow path. Sooner or latter they’re going to reach the end of that path. Where they won’t be able to do incremental changes. At that stage, normally its to late for them to change because a new competitor has come in offering a new business model, new products and services that deliver new value to the consumers. The biggest challenge for organization is to hold that tension, yes they have to be profitable, yes they have to improve existing business, but they have to develop unconventional ideas and strategies to complement their incremental ideas. There’s way to much focus in the incremental change, far to little focus in coming up with unconventional strategies option.
7. Do you have an example of maybe your most interesting experience with client?
Its always hard because most of them confidential
8. Ok lets change the question, do you have tips to become creative, what practices that people must do in daily live?
What I’m encourage is to start building sensitivity to build disruptive thinking. Disruptive thinking is not a question of talent its question of awareness. For example, you want to buy a car, a yellow mini cooper. I go online research this yellow mini cooper, the next day I walk on the street I see all these yellow mini cooper, they were there before, but I didn’t notice. Because I hadnt train my awareness, sensitivity. I encourage my students to bring notebook with them, not just for recording ideas. That’s important, but to record the disruptive thinkings where they come across. Experience that surprised them, unexpected, why is that. Why is it valuable.
9. Lets talk about values, what are the values in your company, Frog Design?
I give you an example, we had to develop a skin care device for 12-13 year old girls, cleansing device. I have to lead the design team, we were all comprise of 30 something men and women. There wasn’t a 12-13 year old girl in our design team. So this is a problem. We come up with this idea that we thought was very cool. We have to test our assumption. So we got 12-13 year old girls in, we put this rough product in front of them and we get their reaction and they start to help with the design of this product. The wrong part is, we can read about 12-13 year old girls on the internet, we can ask friends, but we will never be 12-13 year old girls. What they wanted is the complete opposite, they hated what we had, and the things we had developed that we think not very good, that’s the prototype that they like. Imagine if we never done this experiment, that’s the point of experiment, the reason we make prototypes, not to confirm our assumptions but to disconfirm our assumptions. In fact you want to be wrong, because you will always learn more when you’re wrong. Than already confirm your belief. This is known in psychology as confirmation bias. We always dismiss information that doesn’t align with our current belief. That’s why you need to do things like prototype, Its no longer about what you believe, you now got something that someone else can react to, this help you get around your own biases. If you can be brute wrong about what you seen, that’s the best. Its getting you closer to the right answer.
10. Ok, thank you very much Luke