At work my team regularly get together and talk about things happening around us, in the industry, design, technology and business. We call it UX Masterclass. Every member of the team volunteer to talk about something, share an idea, videos or some links. In one of those meets the topic of discussion was how does Apple manage to make every product of theirs a hit with the users. The topic was started with the mention of someone in London already waiting in the que to buy an iPhone 5 which is not yet announced by Apple. We took iPhone as the example (obviously) to get deep into this and the finding was that iPhone was disruptive and also marketed so well, like other apple products to make it an aspirational product.
Then on I was wondering whats the road to a disruptive product by some thinking, reverse engineering, reading and some good discussions.
I think this is the most important question. The moment we decide to go with set rules and principles we stop thinking differently. The moment we decide to go with evolutionary growth we get idle. Ask "why" at every step. The moment you ask that question you will start thinking in a different direction and you may get a breakthrough. I never believed in blindly going with standards. But it doesn't mean we have to be ignorant about the rules. First know the rules and then break them.
I remember once i was part of a discussion where people were trying to come up with a better and more usable mobile keyboard. I listened to the entire discussion for an hour and the question i asked was "Why do we even need a keyboard? Why cant we talk to the phone and the make it type it for me?"
Solve a problem
The interesting thing about "problems" are that not all of them are visible to us. There are lot of things we do which we dont have to. If we can see them, a problem is born and then we can try to solve them. Asking "why" to everything we do is the best way to find that problem. Self indulgent egoistic solutions which is in need of a problem will definitely have a bad death.
I think iPad was a result of this kind of thinking.
Understand the concept; thoroughly!!
Dont just realize the problem, but also try to get insights into it. Its the insight that will give us the best idea to solve the problem. Its the insight that is more valuable than an idea.
The Square idea was born out of Jack Dorsey's insight into the complex credit card payment system. TESCO's idea of enabling people in South Korea to buy products when they wait for train is another example of an idea coming out of an insight. An idea when copied and implemented without proper insight into the problem you are solving may fail.
Have a strategy
Most of the times your ideas to solve a problem would be too futuristic or using technologies that don't exist or are too expensive. This should not stop you. Think of ways you can go towards your vision with whatever you have today. Set small milestones towards your final goal based on things that are feasible today and get things rolling. Parallely do everything to get the world working for you to achieve your vision; a new market, users, supply, demand, technology, cost, raw materials etc.
Come outside in
If you have an idea to solve a particular problem which you see at the extreme end of an already set system, just focus on that and try to solve that well upfront. Once you have solved that problem there are more chances of the already set system changing tracks to adapt to your solution which could disrupt them. You then may have an opportunity to redefine that space too.
See how Square simplified credit card payment first and is now getting to redefine the conventional point of sale system.