Henry Ford. Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. Disruptive entrepreneurs may upend industries in different ways, but they have one thing in common: They don’t think like the people they disrupt. They look at the world differently— and, in my experience, more emotively, too. They appear contrarian, which makes sense. To create something new, an entrepreneur must see things as they should be, rather than simply as they are.
What can we learn from them that we can repeat ourselves? That’s tricky. When a disruptor’s story is told, it often focuses on what they did, rather than how they thought through it. But a disruptor’s mindset changes along with their businesses! To truly know their mindset, you must observe them in their element— while they are in the middle of disrupting.
I’ve been fortunate to do that, as I’ve worked with many disruptors (and eventually started a consulting company that focuses on disruption). Here, I’ll share what I learned from three disruptors while they were actively rethinking their industries for the better.
1/ Focus on inputs over outputs.
Nabil De Marco is the general manager for Amazon Business in Europe, and he hired me to work with him fresh out of business school. Back then, he was responsible for launching and growing the e-commerce giant’s pan- European auto motive business, and he had giddy ambitions to change how vehicles and car parts were sold in Europe.
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