There’s no formula for disruptive innovation, but there are certain traits that seem to crop up time and again in the individuals who drive it.
Whether delving into Silicon Valley or Wall Street, noted author Michael Lewis has built his work on the stories of individual who changed the game through some tenacity and creative thinking, and his insights translate into lessons that are just as fitting for healthcare innovators.
Lewis, whose highly acclaimed books have been been the basis of blockbuster films such as Moneyball and The Blind Side, spent some time this week with an audience at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics conference in San Fransisco, sharing his insights into some of the notable traits of disruptive thinkers.
One thing’s for sure about disruptors, Lewis said: you wouldn’t be able to pick one out of a line-up. They’re not outwardly unusual or eccentric, even if they are inwardly obsessed with an idea.
"They aren’t the stereotype of the innovator – they aren’t wacky, they aren’t weird people. You meet them and you don’t think ‘Oh, this is a really odd guy who’s going to do something unusual," Lewis told host and Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) interventional cardiology marketing vice president Matt Franklin. "They can often pass themselves off as completely normal, even though they’re not. Deep down, they’re not. The surface can often be very conventional."
Disruptors are strong personalities, but stable characters tossed into an unstable environment that becomes an incentive to innovate. Even so, they aren’t "bomb-throwers," even when they’re work serves to up-end cherished paradigms.
"It’s not a destructive impulse, it’s actually a creative impulse that drives them," Lewis said.
Perhaps most importantly, disruptors aren’t overly concerned with the perceptions of others, just as they aren’t afraid to share their own perspectives with anyone who asks.
In writing about their game-changing ideas, Lewis discovered that the innovators he spoke too were generous with their strategies and secrets, even to their own detriment, but that may be part and parcel of their fast-thinking, risk-taking behavior.
"It’s the spirit of the innovator, and I think this is characteristic, in the same way all these characters I’ve written aren’t self-conscious, they aren’t worried about how they’re seen, they also tend to be open and generous and not too worried," Lewis said. "They’re not afraid that someone’s going to take something away from them. They’re used to growing things, so they just grow something else."
"There’s a level of security when you know you can cope with change and create change," he added. "Fearful people don’t change the world."