When was the last time you created an idea that could get your fired? I’m not talking about something illegal, immoral or unwise. It’s those grand, outside-the-box ideas that make your managers’ teeth hurt. Not the good ideas we frequently have that make a positive impact on our business – we need those frequently to give us credibility when we go off the deep end. I’m talking about those paradigm-shifting, anger-inducing, light bulb-busting, WTF, disruptive kind of ideas.
Saul Colt (@saulcolt) gave a talk to the Social Media Breakfast Seattle where he discussed the importance of creative ideas to generate word of mouth marketing. Many of the ideas can be quite simple yet creative to get people talking, while other ideas are so disruptive that they can get your fired. As digital and social marketers we’re faced with an ever evolving industry where disrupting traditional marketing models are frequently the norm. We’ll have the opportunity to push the limits of long-held beliefs of how we engage customers, measure success, impact the sales cycle, etc.
What’s it like to be a disruptive thinker? Here are a few thoughts:
- Disruptive ideas are polarizing: When I tell people about a disruptive idea they will either love it or hate it. There’s very little middle ground. I know I have a “good” idea when almost everyone likes it but know I have a disruptive idea when people trying to protect the status quo hate it.
- When I have a disruptive idea I can’t sleep. I wake up, shower, commute, work, breath and sleep the idea. It’s a blast – if I can bottle the feeling I can sell it for a lot of money. I can change the world, I am superman.
- It doesn’t need to cure cancer or solve world hunger but the idea should be transformational for the problem it’s solving. It can be as simple as a different customer insight or a tweak on how you use your product or service but that minor change should be disruptive to traditional ways of doing things.
- Be persistent and fearless. Push the envelope. Be willing to go against the tide and test the idea despite the opposition. I’m prepared to drive the idea on my own – it’s sometimes lonely.
- Find allies. I’ll test the idea with likeminded and contrarian thinkers to refine and validate the idea. Build support with those who love the idea especially up the management chain.
- Work for a company that can support disruptive change. It helps when management allows you to push the limits and try new things. It gives you more room to try innovative things. It doesn’t mean everyone will agree with your new ideas.
- Make sure you’re right. Is what you’re doing for the greater good? Is it selfish? Will forcing the change bring better outcomes? Come up with a strong business case and risk assessment because you’ll need to fall back on it.
- Know your limits. Sometimes the organization is just not ready for the idea. If it’s bigger than you or the organization you may need to take it elsewhere but sometimes you need to back down and wait for times to change. Just because it doesn’t happen now doesn’t mean it won’t – keep your eyes open for the right opportunity or another form the idea can take that will make it more receptive.
- Why bother? Big disruptive ideas make a difference. They change business and the way people think and perceive.
Practice disruptive thinking as you build your digital, social and traditional marketing efforts. Challenge your assumptions: customer perceptions, brand positioning, sales cycles, business rules and goals, how you engage customers, how you deliver your marketing efforts, etc. Then come up with ideas that push the limits of the status quo.
How do you and your company develop and encourage disruptive thinking?