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Creative Thinking and Disruptive Innovation

Do we need to invest exceptional levels of time and attention in becoming experts before we can make significant creative contributions?

One of the key ideas of author Malcolm Gladwell is that “outliers” on the upper end of intelligence, ability and achievement have engaged in about 10,000 concentrated hours of practice and study in a specific knowledge area.

From my post Outliers and developing exceptional abilities.

Malcolm Gladwell is author of Outliers: The Story of Success.

But a new article by entrepreneur and philanthropist Naveen Jain, the founder of World Innovation Institute (among other credits) writes that while this may be “an interesting thesis” and perhaps true earlier, it may not apply “in today’s world of growing exponential technologies.”

2 Comments to
Creative Thinking and Disruptive Innovation

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  1. Douglas, I agree. I’ve found that most people who are experts have developed ‘rules of thumb’ and implicit assumptions that are never challenged. If someone comes along from outside with a new approach they get dismissed. It’s particularly interesting if you are also trying to raise money – because the financiers inevitably employ industry experts to vet the business proposal!

    As an example, I looked at the area of waste to energy and realised there was a new way to think about it. Without really inventing anything, just combining existing technologies in a new way, I’ve come up with a level of efficiency that experienced engineers, applying the usual ‘rule of thumb’ calculation, can’t be achieved. We’ve now convinced a few, but it’s easier to see us as non-expert charlatans than revise their thinking for most of them.

    Many businesses could radically change their finances for the better just by looking for and challenging implicit assumptions in the way things are done – and many disruptive startups could get going.

  2. Wait, are we really going to treat Naveen Jain as an expert? This is the same Naveen Jain who was convicted of insider trading while he headed his previous company and whose current firm has been hit by multiple class action lawsuits for violating consumer protection laws. Should we really be treating Naveen Jain as an expert? This is the same Naveen Jain who was convicted of insider trading as he headed his last company, and whose current company has been hit with multiple class action lawsuits for violating consumer protection laws. I’m sorry, but I’ll stick with Malcolm Gladwell.


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