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Capable of Disruptive Ideas?

Capable of Disruptive Ideas?

The other night I was watching an interview of two major players at Google Ventures. Google Ventures is the in-house “radical” venture group of the organization, the people who hunt for new ideas and people with ideas, and then invests time and skills with them with the hope of finding the next big thing.

Here are my takeaways from the interview: This is a team of more than 100 tech scavengers looking for very early stage ideas – the next generation of Zuckerbergs, Sergeys, and Larrys in their dorm rooms. How do they find them? Networking. How do these senior executives network with under the radar thinkers? In just the same way we’ve been talking about for many years – they go to where the like-minded hang out. In the world of tech this is in and around certain campuses and companies; it’s coffee shops and bars, not usually professional groups or alumni associations. It’s the assumption that good people know other good people and everyone is willing to talk if you can hold a conversation and engage them in their passion. It also takes a certain amount of patience and selectivity. How many people do you think you have to talk to hear a game changing idea? My guess is thousands. It only reinforces why people who think they can get a job or land a client after a few meetings are fooling themselves.

When asked what they are looking for, the two Google Ventures individuals replied with total body communication – using their faces, hands, and posture, as well as their words – as they attempted to describe something that is indescribable. Finally, one said, “We’re looking for disruptive ideas.” Disruptive ideas, those creations that change how we operate, see, or interact with the world. Ideas so radical that you would stand in line to buy a phone that doesn’t really work too well but allows you to operate it like the laptop you had less than three years ago. So disruptive that someone could imagine communicating billions of pieces of information, globally, at incredible speeds, with addresses as simple as.com,.gov and.edu. So disruptive that in this tough, jam-packed world, a billion people would want to “friend” others, one by one, just for the fun of it.

Try and remember your days without Google. Can you? I can. It quickly became my default for almost everything. I use it daily, sometimes hourly. I start with Google whenever I have a question, need a fact, or being just plain lazy. I vividly remember the first time I heard the word and of the idea. It was like a party game, “Look what you can do with this site.” We tried to stump our new brainiac pal and lost. It was a disruptive idea.

I know a few people who have such genius and had a disruptive idea(s). They changed the world or an important chunk of it. And, I know many more people who in their own quiet way, and within their much narrower scope, are also capable of turning something on its end. The workplace is ripe for it. So many of the pre-conceived notions are not working – hierarchy, silos, workspace, what employers owe their employees, and how and if employees commit to employers. How we compensate and reward; how we measure success. Who is right to lead and who should be a highly recognized solo contributor? I know things aren’t working because if they were, there would be less stress, fewer meetings, reduced cc’s, less politics, and more creativity. There would also be more good ideas and passion.

How do people have a disruptive idea? I’m not sure there is a formula. What I do know is that these contributors often have a deep knowledge and skill base. Gates was programming at an early age. But more important, they have intellectual curiosity and a passion to make things different with a good dose of indignity and intolerance. They love the elegant solution, the beautiful function and straight forwardness of the vision. They also have courage and patience. Thomas Edison is quoted as saying, “I didn’t fail ten thousand times. I successfully eliminated ten thousand times materials and combinations which wouldn’t work.” He disrupted a few things.

Give yourself a moment. Clear your head of all the chatter you fill it with each and every day. Think of something you are passionate about or just plain love, or something that angers you or you’ve done one too many times. Allow yourself to say, “anything is possible” and “money or approval is irrelevant.” What would you do? Or, who will you identify who has the ability or will?

As one of the interviewees said, “We’re looking for people with a healthy disregard for the impossible.” Me too.