#3 ‘Innovation and Disruption’ – isn’t it really just thinking differently?

Many of us who attend and speak at conferences continually hear the familiar UBER and Air BnB stories as examples of the current buzzwords ‘Innovation’ and ‘Disruption’. They are fascinating, to be sure, but to me the word ‘change’ is still the correct one. Admittedly they represent BIG change but ‘disruptive’? I don’t think it helps most of us who are looking for ways to cut through the noise and be successful in what we do, sell or provide. As Nigel Collin says in his recent book ‘Game of Inches’ it’s a myth that success must come from disruption. He looks at many examples where people and organisations have made consistent, small steps in creating incremental change that has made all the difference.

A more useful phrase I believe is ‘think differently’.

Growing up in the same education system and with the same values, we are all taught to think the same way, and anyone who thinks differently is often outcasted or ridiculed. Have you ever noticed, however, that is it usually those kids that were outcasted in high school that have ended up doing very cool things and some becoming highly successful?

These highly successful people didn’t get ahead by following what everyone else was doing; they got there because they were daring and brave enough to think differently than everyone else. They were unable to uphold the complacency, the mindset of “do and think like everyone else,” and they were unable to be moulded into a socially constructed form.

Problems exist every day, and every day we need to find ways to solve problems. Some problems are easy to solve. Out of milk? Go to the store and buy some more milk. Tire flat? Call the roadside assistance company to come help you out.

Some problems though, are much larger and much more complex. When those problems present themselves in a day, or a week, or a month, they need to be solved but they are often solved without the accepted norm that most people use. In many ways, it involves giving things a twist, and seeing things in a new way. It involves thinking outside the box – thinking differently.

When a problem has to be solved, many people will keep at the problem and keeping attacking it from the same angle. Some call this the definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In fact, what has to be done is you have to attack the problem from a different angle, a different perspective and that can be done in many ways.

First, and this may be the best thing to do, walk away from the problem. When you are focused on the problem, you may only try and attack it from that same angle. If you get up and walk away, and let your mind wander elsewhere, you may suddenly find the solution. It is why some people will be looking for something and not be able to find it. Then they will go to sleep and suddenly wake up and know exactly where the thing they were looking for is.

Second, you should think of the situation from the perspective of someone else coming in. Think of how they would see the situation, and how they would attempt to solve it. Step outside yourself, and see through the lense of someone else to learn more about what can be done to solve the problem.

Third, try the craziest idea. This may seem like an odd thing to do and it may not work, but it will work in its own way. On the chance that it does work, that is great you tried something new and it worked. You learned something new as a result. If it doesn’t work, you can learn from it and learn why it didn’t work to solve that problem. From that new information, you can begin to find the right solution to the problem.

What does it mean to think outside the box? It means that you are thinking differently, in an unconventional way, and in a way that brings a new perspective. To think outside the box is to look further down the road, away from the problem, and to not try the obvious things.

There have been many examples of thinking outside the box and how it has not only changed a person’s life, but changed the world as well.

Johannes Gutenberg changed the world more than possibly anyone else in history. It was in the middle of the 15th century that he saw people copying out books by hand, or making books with stamps made from woodblocks. These two ways were how book making had been done for centuries. Gutenberg saw these two different ideas, and he thought outside the box and combined them in a way no one had ever done. By doing that, he created moveable type and from there, the spread of knowledge and ideas changed the entire world.

Another example is that of Gegor Mendel, who came up with the idea of genetics in 1865 by working with pea plants. He was completely ignored for his groundbreaking ideas because he thought so far outside the box and was so far ahead of his time. It was 50 years before his ideas were accepted because someone looked at the Theory of Evolution, and saw his theory of genetics, and combined them to create a torrent of new ideas in medicine and science.

When you think outside the box in life, you create new situations for yourself. You push yourself farther. You push yourself to new heights. It is like the Apple ad from 1997, that told people to Think Different. Those who think different are the ones who push human progress and those who think they can change the world are usually the ones crazy enough to do just that.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Look at the situations in your life, and see how you can change them in a different way. See how you can find freedom in an unfree world by choosing to think different, to look at things in a new way and to start thinking outside the parameters you have habitually adhered to…When you start doing that, every possibility opens up in front of you, every window opens and every door opens. Then, you just have to choose which one to walk through.

Many of the types of people who we see who have become successful were all born into this “idealistic” mentality, like many of us are, they broke free of the mould that society had been pressing them into for years, and were able to be reborn with a mind of their own.

Let’s use an example from popular music : The Beatles. The Beatles didn’t get famous by making music the way everyone else had; their fame came from creating something entirely new- something that was in their heads and hearts, alone, that no one had ever tested before. AND, they were brave enough to boldly present these new ideas to a world that hadn’t yet discovered them.

Another great example – in the very early 1970’s there was a rock group formerly known as ‘Wicked Lester’ who were going nowhere. No-one was buying their record, they couldn’t get a decent live following – they were in trouble. One night they were driving around Manhattan and they came up with the idea of each member creating their own character that had an elaborate and unique facial painted design and they changed their name to KISS. This was before Alice Cooper or David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. They also made sure the act they took to the stage was completely over the top with full frontal lighting and pyrotechnics. They wanted to create something entirely new to a world that didn’t know it wanted it.


Another great example relates to the eve of the 1990 soccer world cup final which saw Italian producer Mario Dradi stage the idea of having Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Josa Carreras perform together in Rome. It was held to raise money for Carreras’s foundation, the José Carreras International Leukemia Foundation. It was also for his friends Domingo and Pavarotti a way to welcome Carreras back into the world of opera after undergoing successful treatment for leukemia. Well, this idea reached its zenith in popularity by the mid 1990’s and that happened to be the time I teamed up with a mate and we conceived the idea of bringing 3 opera singers into a dinner event and disguise them as waiters. They would each play a European character and create a hoax by making themselves known to each table before disrupting the event with a very funny, interactive, ‘3 tenors’ style show. Inspired by ‘The Three Tenors’, we called it ‘The Three Waiters’ and that show would go on to perform over 12,000 performances and be seen in 85 countries. In 2003 it would receive a standing ovation from ‘The Three Tenors’ themselves. It still performs many shows even today and is, in fact, the most booked corporate entertainment show in the world. When we started we knew this was a very unique concept – not singing waiters itself, they’ve been around for years…but more the idea of hoaxing and disrupting an event by taking an unsuspecting audience on a hilarious ‘operatic’ journey. We knew we were creating something new – we were originally worried that it was perhaps too ‘disruptive’, too much outside the norm but of course we soon came to realise it was an idea whose time had come.

That success has always inspired me to keep think differently about the types of acts an audience would like to see. For example ‘The leading Men’, a vocal powerhouse made up of the stars of Australian musical theatre performing the best songs from the best shows that have toured over the last 30 years. These guys weren’t the chorus boys but the actual guys who played the leading roles in those shows. So I’m playing to my strengths and creating a point of difference…because no-one else was doing it.

It really becomes a matter of stepping out of those comfortable shoes everyone is wearing, stretching your arms out wide, and choosing to see the world differently.

The thing is, we are tricked into believing that we have to think and be and behave like everyone else. We are constantly looking only outside of ourselves, at the outside world. We are always questioning, “What are they doing? What are they thinking? How are they living? What do they believe?”

“…Am I doing it all correctly? Am I fitting in? Am I the same?”

It’s a false sense of security; you will never get ahead by following the person in front of you.

Hitting your next high note in life requires that you disrupt your current world of thinking- whether it is full of limitations, doubts, off-handed ideas of others, it doesn’t matter- break it, pry it open.




Whatever it takes, just break the mould.

If you have some doubt- which, fret not, most people initially do- try looking back to a time in your life when you trusted your gut, that inner voice you had, and how everything worked out perfectly. Compare that to a time when you stressed, asked for advice from others, read up on the problem, pulled out your hair, and used logic.

If that doesn’t seem to work, get this: there’s a scientific study showing that just by acting out “thinking outside the box,” participants were able to actually increase their creativity. In the experiment, the participants were given problems to solve; half of them solving the problems in their own 5×5 ft cardboard boxes (they said they didn’t feel claustrophobic), and the other half being just outside those boxes. They were told it was a study having to do with working in different environments. They were all tested on their levels of creativity, and those who were thinking outside of the boxes, better thought “outside the box,” in these tests.

To “Think Outside the Box”, Think Outside the Box

So, if you are still having difficulty, try physically changing your environment; get out of the box. It’s science- it works! Heck, go on a hike; go out into the woods, be by yourself, get away from influence of others and into some free, open air (it’s feng shui).

If you want to see what kind of creative magic is really within you, just be alone with yourself for a while-  look and listen. You have all of the creativity and ingenuity inside of you, it’s just not blossoming because you haven’t given it the light of day. You were too busy looking outside of yourself, too busy looking out to the world to answer your questions.

Innovation is created by looking at the brilliance you have within you, not at what everyone else is doing.

Be a Beatle. Be a Gene Simmons. Heck, be an Einstein.

Be bold; break the mould.

Disrupt your old way of thinking, and innovate a new one. If it seems crazy and too “out there,” it’s probably just right. Remember, no one ever got ahead by following the person in front of them. Create your own path to get ahead, and you will soon feel the glorifying chills of hitting a high note.

An Australian Event Awards ‘Entertainer of the Year’, a music theatre star and co-founder of the world’s most booked corporate entertainment act ‘The Three Waiters’, Darryl’s keynote presentation ‘Hitting the High Notes’ is a compelling story with walk-the-talk key take-home messages and is a ‘must see’ for conference attendees worldwide. He is a unique combination of entrepreneur, speaker and showman – a mesmerising blend of business smarts, engaging storytelling and live opera! It is a combination that has made Darryl one of Australia’s most in demand business and resilience speakers, headlining many Top 500 company conferences including the famed ‘Million Dollar Round Table’ in the USA.

For further information email info@darryllovegrove.com or visit www.darryllovegrove.com.