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From the Editor | The Disruptive Issue, Fall 2016

DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION KNOWS NO BOUNDARIES: eBay and Craigslist killed classified ads; Starbucks’ drowned out traditional coffee shops; Uber upset the taxi industry worldwide; Skype provided free long-distance calls — with video — outdoing giants like Bell and AT&T. In each instance, innovative — and some would say disruptive — entrepreneurs have produced powerful competitive advantages and tremendous wealth. Could you or your company be next?

Let’s find out: try answering the following statements with a simple Yes or No:

  • I often ask questions that challenge fundamental assumptions. ____
  • I creatively solve challenging problems by drawing on diverse ideas or knowledge. ____
  • I get innovative ideas by directly observing how people interact with products and services. ____
  • I regularly interact with diverse people to find and refine new business ideas. ____
  • I frequently experiment to create new ways of doing things. ____

According to research by Harvard’s Clayton Christensen and colleagues, if you answered Yes to at least three of these questions, the odds are that you possess what he calls ‘disruptive innovator potential’. If you don’t do any of these things on a regular basis, you are unlikely to be an innovator — unless something
changes. The good news is, you can change your behaviour to increase your disruptive potential. In this issue of Rotman Management, we will examine some of the habits and mindsets of successful innovators and entrepreneurs.

It is not easy to picture the buying and selling of cognitive capabilities traditionally embedded in humans, but the fact is, a market for machine intelligence is on the horizon — and leaders ignore it at their own peril. Rotman Professor and Creative Destruction Lab Director Ajay Agrawal explains why in Machine Learning and the Market for Intelligence, on page 6. World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab believes we are in the midst of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’, characterized by smart and connected machines and systems and breakthroughs in areas ranging from gene sequencing to nanotechnology. He describes what lies ahead in The Fourth Industrial Revolution, on page 18.

Humans evolved in a world that was local and linear, but today we live in a world that is global and experimental. The problem is, our brains weren’t designed to think this way. Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler present a coping framework known as ‘the six Ds of exponentials’ in Goodbye Linear Thinking, Hello Exponentials, on page 38.

Elsewhere in this issue, Tuck School of Business Professor and innovation expert Vijay Govindarajan is featured in our Thought Leader Interview on page 12; and we feature an excerpt from Rotman Professor Joshua Gans’ new book, The Disruption Dilemma on page 26. In our Idea Exchange section, The Innovator’s DNA co-author Jeff Dyer describes the five discovery skills of innovative entrepreneurs on page 92; and Rotman professors Sarah Kaplan, Nina Mažar and Kristina McElheran discuss their latest research.

As management guru Tom Davenport has said, rather than asking, ‘What tasks currently performed by humans will soon be done by machines?’, we should be asking, ‘What new feats might people achieve if they had better-thinking machines to assist them?’ By embracing this mindset, perhaps we can follow Davenport’s advice and re-frame ‘the threat of automation’ as ‘opportunities for augmentation’.

Karen Christensen, Editor-in-Chief


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