Disrupt You – MasterClass

Last week, I had the awesome experience of working with Lisa Messenger & her team at Collective Hub to deliver a Master Class titled: Disrupt You. In today’s post, I will go through the overview to that workshop.

An abridged version of the slides can also be found at https://marktruelson.com/stories/slides/

Our world is really, really changing. Faster, than you could possibly imagine. And what is happening is that business is changing faster than Darwinian rates. Meaning that most humans are not keeping up. So it is harder for businesses to keep up. Businesses that are purpose driven, who build creative confidence will be the ones that not only survive but thrive in the new age.

Remember when it was instilled into our culture that we would all have jobs for life. Go to Uni. Climb up the ranks. “Work hard and you will get that gold watch”. That utmost security of a good job. Well today, the number 1 selling watch does not even work for 24 hours. You have to plug it in. Fundamental change. So we are looking at things differently. Staying at a company for 40 years doesn’t really exist anymore. Your biggest companies are the ones that change the quickest and then they disappear. So we used to say that security, robs ambition. Today it is the illusion of security that is robbing ambition.

So lets talk about disruption. Let us focus on what is different.

Let s look at the world’s biggest hotel chain. The biggest accommodation provider owns no hotels (Airbnb)

The biggest taxi company owns no cars (Uber)

Let me take a second with Uber. Because everyone has had an experience with the emerging behemoth. Uber has well over one million drivers that have never met their boss. Have never talked to HR. If there was an earthquake (heavens forbid) in San Francisco and Uber HQ fell into the ocean, Skynet would operate and everyone would continue to move forward. Everyone would show up and get paid. No middle management. And the thing to realize is that this will become the norm as more and more realize that is where business is heading.

The world’s most popular media company creates no content (Facebook)

Facebook earns the accolade of having the highest earning of revenue per employee of any business.

The world’s largest retailer has no inventory (Alibaba).

It is not Amazon, but they are closing.

So what do these four businesses have in common? What is different? We are all interconnected. We are all mobile. And we can all leverage big data to solve new problems that we didn’t think about before. We don’t have to emulate these digital titans. Yet if we don’t have their foresight or automated prowess, your culture has to exude a higher purpose to garner a greater contribution.

Two things that will change the world and may cost one their career.

Can you recognize what is on the left?

Plastic film that goes into 3D printers. 3D printers are completely changing our world. We grew up in an era of mass production where everybody got the same thing. Now everything can be customized. 3D printing isn’t just about plastic. It is about metal. It is about wood. It is about kidneys. It is about human organs. Totally amazing. It is also estimated that 3D printers will take over 320M existing jobs.

The second one everyone will know. Because it is the one thing that connects us all and that is MOBILE. If whatever you are thinking, planning or doing is not mobile centric you are missing the boat. We all carry a device on us that connects us to 6 billion people. You only have to be right for a nano second to become a disruptor. A disruptor that can change the world.

Business as usual is dead (unless you are willing to encourage love and empathy within the workplace)

According to an Oxford study entitled “The Future of Employment”, 47% of all jobs in the US economy today will be subject to automation or computerization

If you think that business is going to be the same I have a scary notion for you. Half of all white-collar jobs will disappear over the next ten years. A lot of my friends are lawyers and accountants and often they will say, “That stat doesn’t apply to me”. And my response is “are you kidding”. Artificial Intelligence (A/I) is going to take off the top jobs. There will be a program that knows all the tax codes. Better than any individual and it will be programmed to do it. Middle management jobs will also disappear if Corporates don’t seek environments that amplify imagination and ignite passion from within. Because this is the space where robots haven’t been programmed to thrive. As a learned colleague of mine Steve Arthurson always reiterates: “the need to disrupt yourself comes from a sense of meaning and purpose to be more, do more and contribute more, all for the greater good”.

Who’s next?

  • Could it be your company?
  • Your job?
  • You?

Are you prepared to disrupt you? Have you considered?

  • What is the one thing you would hope to change about yourself? What personal traits do you believe are holding you back from attaining success? How do your co-workers and bosses perceive you? What shortcomings do others say you have? What have employers noted on your performance reviews in the past?
  • Is there anything holding you back from making a change in your life?
  • What do you risk losing if you try to disrupt your life?
  • Are you willing to change?
  • Are you capable of change?
  • Do you believe in yourself?

Whether by choice or circumstance every career gets disrupted. But here is the good news. Disruption isn’t about what happens to you, it is about how you respond to what happens to you. Obstacles are opportunities in disguise.

There has never been an opportunity for personal growth than what confronts us now. For the rest of the blog, we will delve into the three steps that enable disruption to occur at it’s greatest potential.

First Pillar: DARE

“Do not dare, not to dare” – C.S Lewis

Being a disruptor is simply a state of mind. It is the ability to look for opportunity in every obstacle, to respond to every setback as a new beginning. It is being in the silver-lining business. Every successful person who has skillfully transformed a business or social organization started with a personal problem and then noticed how many other people shared the same problem. What sets disruptors apart from other people who merely experience problems are that disruptors see themselves and their worlds differently. That unique viewpoint enables them to become agents of change—and to reap the rewards. Disruption isn’t about what happens to you; it’s about how you respond to what happens to you.

Steve Jobs, in his brilliant commencement address to Stanford University’s class of 2005, reflected on his academic challenges in college. Jobs knew he wanted to achieve something great when he set out on his life path, but he didn’t know what steps would lead him to success.

“Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Questions to consider:

  • Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest and really give yourself a hard looking over. What are the attributes that will help you achieve your success? What are the attributes you admire in others that you wish you had? What are the challenges that limit your ability to achieve?
  • Why do most people set limits when none actually exist? List one achievement that would change how you feel about your limitations. For example, if you were afraid of public speaking, the achievement to list would be giving a speech. If you weren’t knowledgeable about a certain business, it would be taking a course or reading a book on the subject. Choose something just outside of your comfort zone.
  • You already know step three. Take on your weaknesses by proving that you can achieve whatever you conceive. Leave your comfort zone and discover what you can do.
  • Write a list of the things you would like out of life. This list can include personal as well as material goals. Be honest and complete. Keep this list in a journal or on your computer and refer back to it in coming days, months, and years. Feel free to update and revise your list as your desires change. This list is your first step at gaining control over your life’s journey.
  • Take your list and sequence as best you can. Think about the order in which you are likely to attain your goals. You may find it is easiest to start at the end of the list and work backwards to the present.
  • Hang this list on the wall by your desk or on your bathroom mirror. Study it and revise it. Look at it often. You will be amazed how much you can accomplish once you focus your priorities.
  • Rewrite your ordered Disruptor’s Map on a fresh sheet of paper, this time leaving spaces in between each goal. In these spaces, you need to fill in two key pieces of information: the date by which you must achieve your goal, and the resources needed to ensure your success.

Look at the list of necessary resources that you just came up with. Think of those resources as a To Do List. Write up an action plan of how and when you are going to do each of the items on this list.


Whilst agencies like IDEO are lauded for their design capabilities, I believe the worlds best design thinkers are detectives like David Caruso and Columbo

The key to finding a big idea is first finding a problem in need of a solution. Every disruptive idea makes use of new technology to solve a big problem. The next step is to kill your big idea. If you can find a problem that will derail an idea, so will the marketplace. The quicker you can eliminate the business road kill, the more capital you will have left to focus on the one idea that can’t be killed. I learned later in my career that the faster you can kill the bad ideas, the quicker you can pivot to the successful one. “Speed to fail” should be every entrepreneur’s motto. When you finally find the one idea that can’t be killed, go with it.

We think that great disruptive ideas come from “eureka” moments—brilliant, insightful flashes of innovation that come to people fully formed. Think of Doc Brown, in Back to the Future, who discovers the flux capacitor while standing on his toilet hanging a clock. Even the word eureka—Greek for “I have found (it)”—comes from the story we are taught in school of how Archimedes discovered his displacement principle while getting into a bath. He was so excited with his discovery that he ran naked through the streets of ancient Syracuse yelling, “Eureka! Eureka!”

In reality, most discoveries come from the simple act of identifying life’s problems. When I speak with my 10-year-old son (an aspiring You Tuber) and his mates, most want to make millions launching an Internet company or writing the next killer iPhone app. Many of them feel that fame and fortune are a foregone conclusion. These students all tend to have just one minor obstacle on their road to success: they lack the big idea. The truth is, those eureka ideas are actually fairly easy to come across—but they don’t come from chance moments of brilliance; they come from careful, methodical observation.

If you want to disrupt the world, take a good, hard look at it. Ask yourself this question: Is my world perfect? Does everything function smoothly at your job or company? Are all your friends enjoying the stress-free lives they imagined for themselves when they were young? Are all the goods and services you use properly priced and easy to find? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then there is room for a disruptive idea. As Mahatma Gandhi so prophetically stated, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

The trick to creating disruption at scale is to identify the biggest opportunities where the existing value chain is most easily upended. Look for the piece of the business that will shift the most dollars away from their present course. Uber shifts the taxi market from thousands of small cab companies to one centralized software system that collects the money. Uber breaks one link of the chain—distribution—and it is the one that has the highest potential for profitability. Step two is then capturing as much of the newly unlocked value as you possibly can in the shortest time. It’s that easy. Find a problem, disrupt it, and solve it. The bigger the problem, the more people your solution helps, and the more money you make. Disruptors are simply problem solvers.

Problems are just businesses waiting for the right entrepreneur to unlock the value. How many other problems can be solved by applying existing science and technology?

a) The Dead Body (aka Problems to Solve)

Detective’s world – Arrive at a grizzly murder scene with a dead body ‘marked’ out in perfect symmetry. Take time to look at all the aspects of the crime scene to ensure the right brief for clue hunting is in place.

Our world – Determine what keeps us up at night (i.e. dead body), Identify what the problem to solve is and take time to look at all aspects of the crime scene (ask lots of questions) and set clear parameters for the project. ‘Get clear on your challenge and align your team and stakeholders around it’

  • Start looking for problems. Over the course of one month, write down three things that can be improved in your world every day. They can be big or small; personal or global.
  • Review your ninety problems. Which are you most passionate about? Which problems do you believe bother the most people? Which problems have the least viable available solution?
  • Select the three problems for which you would most like to find a solution.

Windows of Wisdom

  • Context – How did this brief come about? Why now? What are we trying to overcome or achieve? What is the specific issue that this insight could help answer?
  • Constraints – What can and can’t we do? How much time do we have? How much budget do we have?
  • Spheres of Influence – Who is going to sign off on this project? Who else do we have to get involved to make this work? Are there any internal influencers we need to know about? To know about?
  • Pictures of Success – What would success look like for this project? What specific outcomes do we expect? What effect will these outcomes have on the brand?

Rope of Scope – What is in and out of scope?

b) Looking for Clues

Detective’s world – Go near and far looking for clues to solve the crime. Start close in (i.e. fingerprints) and look beyond (relationships that have formed, similar crimes that have been solved).

Our world – Uncovering the raw data from inside and outside your world that will help crack the challenge. Clues & facts that provide inspiration.

  • Who would be the desired end user?
  • Where and when would the end user experience or use this?
  • Write a detailed description of your target audience. Go beyond the standard demographic information and include the psychological details of what will make customers emotionally connected to your product or service. Try to be specific.

Clues you’ve GOT – We all have clues that are readily available (internet, family, friends, work colleagues, existing research and other publicly available information e.g. blogs, get into end user shoes etc.). This information is:

  • Available fast
  • Costs nothing
  • Exposes information gaps

Clues you’ve NOT GOT – you then need to plan where and how you will find them

Normal – Who has a normal relationship to our issue?

Deep – Who has more experience and / or knowledge around our issue than the average person?

Weird – Who has a strange relationship to our issue?

c) Develop a Small List of Leads

Detective’s world – Profile likely suspects and start building the case. Look for motives and continually ask ‘why’.

Our world – Interpret the facts and build likely themes, which can be used as springboards for ideas. Prioritise the lead insights & generate leads to fuel ideas.

  • What I have seen, heard or read?
  • What’s going on here?
  • What could be driving their behavior?
  • Why might they be doing that?
  • How can they use it?
  • What must the product / experience be to deliver on the insight and needs?

Come up with three Opportunity Areas.

d) Convince the Jury

Detective’s world – From a prioritised list of suspects build hundreds of scenarios and test them against those close to the crime. When the jigsaw puzzle is complete place suspect under arrest and prepare case for jury to convict

Our world – Ideate from the insight platforms and exploit the opportunity areas. Harvest and bring those ideas to life. Final concepts with evidence

  • What is it?
  • What makes this exciting?
  • What is special about it?
  • What does it look like?
  • How large an opportunity may this idea represent?
  • How much growth may we expect?
  • How profitable may this idea be?
  • How well does this idea deliver on the target’s needs?
  • How different and better is this idea compared to existing offering?
  • Can you deliver this idea in a differentiated, sustainable and profitable way?
  • Find ten strangers (friends want you to succeed and won’t be honest enough with their feedback) who share the same problem and tell them about your Big Idea. Do they feel it will it help them? What would they pay for a solution? Ask them to try and kill your Big Idea. (Tip: Phrase your questions in an open ended manner so as not to lead them into artificially supporting your idea. “How would you use this product?” is a more useful survey question than “Do you like this product?”)
  • Modify your idea with the feedback received and test the new improved Big Idea on ten new potential customers. Test and repeat until your Idea can’t be killed. Revel in having created a Zombie idea and yell “It’s alive!”


One of the best models for making sense of a non-linear world is the S-Curve. This model has historically been used to understand how disruptive innovation takes hold – why a growth curve will stay flat for so long and then rocket upward suddenly, only to eventually plateau again. Developed by E.M Rogers in how, why, and what rate ideas and products spread throughout cultures.

To visualize the S-curve of disruption, you start at the bottom-left of a chart with a very gradual and sometimes arduous learning and acclimatization process. This period can be tough, and may even cause you to doubt your ability to succeed. But if you keep at it, suddenly there’s an inflection point. Everything falls into place and your idea/project/career takes off almost vertically, yielding generous rewards. Eventually, though, the activity reaches a mature phase and levels off, at which point disruptors know they must find and move to a new curve and start over.

Adoption is relatively slow at first, at the base of the ‘S’, until a tipping point, or knee of the curve, is reached. You then move into hyper growth, up the sleek, steep back of the curve. This is usually at somewhere between 10 and 15% of market penetration. At the flat part at the top of the ‘S’, you’ve reached saturation, typically at 90%


Facebook, for example, based on a market opportunity of one billion users, took roughly four years to reach penetration of 10 percent. But once Facebook reached a critical mass of a hundred million users, rapid growth ensued due to the network effect (i.e. friends and family were now on Facebook), as well as virality (i.e. email updates, photo albums for friends of friends, etc.); over the next four years, Facebook added not one hundred million but eight hundred million users.

I believe the S-Curve can also be used to understand personal disruption – the necessary pivots in our own career paths. In complex systems like a business or a brain, cause and effect may not always be as clear as the relationship between the light switch and the light bulb. There are time-delayed and time-dependent relationships in which high output today may be the result of actions taken a long time ago.

The S-Curve decodes those patterns, providing signposts along a path that, while frequently trodden, is not always obvious. If you can successfully navigate, even harness, the successive cycles of learning and mastering that resemble the S-Curve model, you will see and seize opportunities in an era of accelerating disruption.

Self-disruption will force you up steep foothills of new information, relationships, and systems. The looming mountain may seem insurmountable, but the S-Curve helps us

So the S-Curve helps us with the psychology of disruption. For instance if you started with a new job, or just launched a new product., the S-Curve tells us that our progress is going to be slow. This helps you avoid discouragement. Then as you put in the hours of practice and the ‘doing’, you accelerate into competence and confidence. And this is the exciting part to the curve where all your neurons are firing. Then as you approach mastery you will be doing things automatically and very easily and because you are no longer experiencing the feel good effects, boredom and complacency may kick in. If it this point you don’t jump to a new curve your plateau may become your precipice.

There are volumes of research that indicate that the odds of success improve for products, services, companies’ even countries but the fundamental unit for disruption is the individual. The best way to drive corporate innovation is through disruption. If you can surf the S-Curve way of learning and mastering you will have an accelerated competitive advantage in this era of disruption.

We will go into more detail with the these Seven Steps to DO in future blogs

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