Where Do we Start to be Disruptive?

einstein-212102The future is driven by great leaders disrupting the status quo. They dream up new products and services that change the way we work and play but also how we see the world.  They disrupt industries and cultures and institutions with new technologies and approaches. They offer radical departures from best practices in management of people and processes. In the end, great leaders create a new world that helps us do what we once thought was impossible.

How do they do that? Where do they find that power to be so radically different? Where do they begin? How can we learn to be that disruptive leader?

Albert Einstein may have been one of the most disruptive leaders the world has ever known because he changed the way we approach science and thereby the world.  But this wasn’t any small change.  His ideas rejected the status quo, breaking from what was considered the best practices of the time, the standards created by Sir Isaac Newton a150 years before. Einstein posed his theory of relativity and laid the groundwork for a radical new way of thinking called “quantum physics.”

How did he do that? Where did he start?

Many consider Einstein a genius and so they figure “he just did it.”  They think he had some natural gift that they do not.  But I don’t buy that. Instead, I think there is something there that all of us can emulate. We can learn from him and implement at least a portion of how he approached the world and make a disruption of our own.

Scott Thorpe in “How to Think Like Einstein” (2000, Sourcebooks, Inc.) contends that Einstein followed four steps that each of us can implement:

  1. Find the Right ProblemHow to Think Like Einstein
  2. Breaking the Pattern
  3. Breaking Rules
  4. Grow the Solution.

Over the last decade, I have used this formula and found it extremely effective.  However, I believe there is one step that comes before finding the right problem.  This too often ignored element is an attitude and a practice that turns this formula  from a left brain, logical process into a right brain creative adventure. That might be a surprise because we often think of science and management as logical ventures. But Einstein himself saw the power of the creative.

“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

Did you note his focus on “the gift of fantasy”? I love one of the definitions of the word “fantasy” as “the forming of mental images, especially wondrous or strange fancies; imaginative conceptualizing.” (www.dictionary.com) I also see that one definition is “a hallucination.”  Often when we are dreamers, we are seen as out of touch with reality and not much good as a leader.

Fantasy is the key to disruption.

Fantasy is a world that is made up, imagined or shall we say, dreamed. It is a world that comes to us suddenly and often incomplete and even fractured, confusing and unrecognizable. We have trouble explaining it or even labeling it. It is like describing a smart phone to someone in the middle ages.

But fantasy has incredible power because it takes us to a place far beyond the practicalities and realities of the present conditions. Fantasy is the world of our dreams that is filled with answers to the question “what if?” Fantasy, i.e. dreaming is gives us power because it is our passion. Somewhere in that fantasy world we find a place where we would like to live, play and work. We dream of what would happen IF we could create a new product or service. We dream of what could happen WHEN we break from the rules that the current world operates within. We then  relish the POWER we would have to do what currently is considered impossible.

No wonder we love to dream.

But dreaming is often disparaged within the business world. The word is rejected within board meetings in favor of innovation, vision and even creativity. It is scorned for its lack of action and wasted effort. “We don’t have time to dream. We need to be productive.” “Dream, along with “fantasy” are not words welcomed in the corporate mindset. What a mistake.


Dreaming is the first step to disruptive leadership.

It is in this passionate creation of what can be that we discover the energy to break free of the current obstacles. It is in this quest that we take the risk that we would avoid if we were simply working out of the logical side of our brains. Einstein changed the world because he was captivated by an idea. He was obsessed with the “what if?” “why?” and “why not?” While those have logical components, there is a creative, passionate, and we may even use the taboo word “spiritual” element to it.

Examine any great leader. Look into their life and you will find they driven by a dream. They dreamed of what could be or what their life would look like. Some dreamed of social changes while others dreamed of riches and influence. The lesson is that every great leader’s contribution was fueled by a dream. That was the gift of fantasy Einstein spoke of.

The dream is the emotional beginning of a viable vision. The dream becomes reality when we passionately embrace it and work to make it a reality. It is the embryo of a dynamic vision.

You can be a disruptive leader. The first step is to begin dreaming.

  • Dream of what you love.
  • Dream of what is good but not yet reality.
  • Dream of what transforms yourself, community, country and world.
  • Dream of what can happen if you suspended just one social or physical rule in your life.

There is INCREDIBLE POWER in dreaming.

  1. Are you sensing the opportunities in those dreams?
  2. Are you believing those dreams?
  3. Are you actively working to make those dreams a vision that becomes an action plan and eventually a reality?

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I am Dr. Loren Murfield and I help aspiring and emerging leaders leverage their power to do what followers and critics think is impossible. What are you dreaming of doing? What changes do you want to make?   Contact me today at Loren@MurfieldCoaching.com to best leverage your power to make that impossible dream a reality.

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