Book Review: DISRUPT – Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation

Author Luke Williams packs a lot into this short 5-chapter book (182 pages).  Williams wants you and I to learn to think “disruptively.”   In the preface he writes, “I’d argue that, today, there’s actually too much differentiation going on.”  He is referring to the way companies create similar products and then try to make them stand out through small, incremental changes to the products over time.  He isn’t against differentiation of products as a business strategy, he simply acknowledges that small incremental changes and “tweaks” to existing products won’t propel a company forward in the next decade.  Businesses (actually the people who work in those businesses) must learn to think “disruptively.”  Disruptive thinking leads to the creation of new innovations that leave competing companies scrambling to keep up.  Disruptive thinking changes the landscape and challenges the status quo.  Williams goes on to say that without disruptive innovation, companies will “differentiate themselves right out of business.”

So what does this have to do with Sunday School and a church’s larger ministry to its members and the people in its community?  Plenty.

Before I connect Disrupt to the strategy of Sunday School, allow me to share an illustration from the book about how disruptive thinking takes place (and created several products that you probably have in your home right now).  To think disruptively, you start by discovering what Williams calls “clichés” about a product or industry.  Let’s take the soda industry as an example.  Cliches would include (1) soda is inexpensive (2) soda tastes good (3) soda is aspirational (that is, it is often sold through celebrity endorsement, people whom we aspire to be like).  To think disruptively about the soda industry, do what he calls “inverting and twisting” the clichés.  If we thought disruptively, we could say that (1) it could be expensive (2) it wouldn’t have to taste good (3) it doesn’t have to be aspirtational.  Now, who would buy expensive, bad-tasting soda??  Well, if you’ve ever had Red Bull, you’ve done just that.  Red Bull was invented by people who thought disruptively and challenged the status quo of the soda industry.  Red Bull and other energy drinks don’t compete with sodas on the basis of price (they are at least twice as expensive as sodas) and they don’t taste good (where soda is sweet), and Red Bull is not advertised through celebrity endorsements that are aspirational.  Red Bull simply gives you energy when you want it.  And you pay handsomely for it.

One final example from the video game industry to drive this home.  Cliches about the video game industry would include (1) there are only 2 kinds of people…gamers and non-gamers (2) game consoles are expensive (3) you play games sitting down (4) gamers want faster chips with realistic graphics.  But if you practice disruptive thinking, you might find the complete opposites would be attractive to a whole new segment of people who never thought about gaming before!  What if (1) non-gamers became gamers (2) game consoles weren’t expensive (3) you play standing up…and might even break a sweat (4) you didn’t have to have realistic graphics.  What market innovation would you have if the above became reality?  The Wii!!  So you see, disruptive thinking takes what you know, turns it on its head, and allows you to develop new ways of reaching people with your product or service by challenging the status quo.

Now, let’s talk about Sunday School.  What kind of cliches can you think of that relate to it?  Here are two  clichés that apply to most Sunday Schools:  (1) it’s on Sunday mornings (2) it takes place at church.

Now, think disruptively and what do you get?  (1) It doesn’t just have to be on Sunday mornings (2) It doesn’t have to take place at church.  So if I inverted the clichés and what I know about Sunday School, I’d have a “disruptive Sunday School” if it some classes could meet on Sunday evenings or a weekday night (for those who work on Sundays, or for leaders who serve in the preschool, children, and student ministries of the church on Sunday mornings), and it could take place in coffee shops, offices, apartment complex club houses, and other places in the community…the Sunday School could go to the people rather than expecting the people to come to the Sunday School.

DISRUPT will challenge you to think in ways that you may not normally think…I know it has challenged me.  It has been so impactful that I am leading the effort to take 30 fellow employees through the book, and they have all agreed to take 5 other people each through a study of the book.  In time, I hope that hundreds of LifeWay employees will learn new ways of thinking disruptively so that we can lead our company to do disruptive things in the marketplace, meet the needs of churches, and challenge the status quo as a Christian publisher.  Who knows how God might use a secular book like DISRUPT to cause you and your fellow church leaders to think differently…think disruptively….for the advancement of His Kingdom.

To order a copy of DISRUPT on amazon.com, click here.

Thanks for dropping by the blog this week…try to see the world differently and think disruptively!

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