Craig Copeland

What Disruptive Thinking is – and what it can do for you

Simply Genius FireFly

A simple definition is:

Disruption is the moment nothing turns into something.

What is the benefit of cultivating disruptive thinking? Society encourages us to think rationally, pragmatically, logically, and critically, while keeping intuitive, creative, divergent, and imaginative thinking on the backburner, as luxuries when we have time for creative endeavors.

There are those who enjoy their creative pursuits as a form of relaxation, or a way to cultivate their inner creator. But only a few either pursue creative outlets full time, artists, designers, architects, engineers, inventors, etc.

If we look at life, except for what nature has created, there is nothing that hasn’t been created by mankind. Not innovated, not manufactured, not monetized, created.

It’s in this light we can see that while rational thinking is important and viable for everyday life, survival, even getting ahead, it is the areas of creative, intuitive, discovery, and imaginative that actually have the biggest impact. Once these are present, then we are later able to rationalize and prove something to be sound.

Pythagoras, Copernicus, da Vinci, Einstein, Ramanujan, Faraday, and others didn’t completely have the math, geometry, engineering, or science worked out in order to prove their ideas and concepts to be sound. As Pythagoras stated, “He reasoned.”

They first began with intuitive, imaginative, divergent, and creative thinking to work out their ideas and theories, and only later did someone else’s research vet their concepts proving them to be sound; Eratosthenes, Aristotle, Loomis, Einstein, Capra, Eddington, Davison, Dyson, Maxwell, and Hardy.

Example: The Ramanujan-Hardy intuition/logic chart:

Ramanujan-Hardy Scale

Srinivasa Ramanujan


G. H. Hardy




Unconscious ———— Conscious
Context of Discovery ———— Context of Justification
Theory ———— Proof

Is Disruption the Same as Innovation?

Contrary to the standard business idea of disruptive innovation (coined by Clayton Christensen of The Innovator’s DNA), one cannot have innovation without a disruption first occurring. Therefore, disruption is different from innovation.

The second distinction between the two is that disruption initially has no endgame. In the early stages, it is simply trying to figure something out, solve a riddle, or to pursue an intriguing thought or idea, usually because some catalyst has sent the explorer down a rabbit hole of wonder and curiosity.

When we examine innovation, it typically has a specific purpose and direction, and its pursuit has definite objectives. In the business world those are usually for competitive advantage and monetary gain.

And although historically, a disruption can yield ten times the profit over innovation, last ten times longer, and can benefit more people overall, that is neither its intention nor purpose. We know this because some disruptors died broke and penniless, or never saw a dime from their ideas.

Leonardo Da Vinci just wasn’t good with money. Because he procrastinated on some of his works, he suffered financially at times. Nikola Tesla died alone and in debt. Hedy Lamarr, whose frequency hopping concept today would be worth over $30 billion dollars, and although she fought, but the patent expired before its ultimate technology was implemented. She never saw a penny.

Then there are the disruptions that endure the test of time, electromagnetism, gasoline, electricity, the lightbulb, automobiles, radio, television, frequency hopping, the telephone, cellular phones, airplanes, rocket ships, Xray technology, gamma ray science, the structure of the DNA double helix.

A disruption is not disruptive until society accepts it as a new standard. To illustrate this, when Steve Wozniak first developed his personal computer idea, initially, he wanted to share and give his idea away for free to everyone in the Homebrew Computer Club. To him, it was a fun project of discovery. It was Jobs who immediately saw the future potential of this device and knew it had a bigger purpose.

In this way, we can also conclude that disruption is not initially and immediately thought of as a business concept. It is only later, once adopted into society, that it has the potential to become a business idea, need, or service.

Once this happens, this is where innovation is then required in order to keep it relevant and necessary. Even though he knew the importance of creating a business in order for their concept to become successful, Steve Jobs didn’t necessarily have the right business acumen to get them there, and therefore hired Mike Markkula to act as the business lead of the company (and later John Sculley) so that Jobs could focus on the creative vision of what Apple’s potential could become.

Every time it happens, no matter in what field or industry, disruption creates something new and beautiful, like the first cells of life created from a primordial soup; it changes everything.

Its very nature is raw, organic, and uniquely odd. And once we finally embrace a new disruption, it changes us forever. Its existence promotes new ideas, new possibilities, and develops new thinking. Its creation fosters unlimited opportunity.

Disruption is one’s ability to think beyond the limiting conditioning of our tribal beliefs. This expansive mindset is what allows us to create on a major scale that can dramatically alter the direction of every field and industry, radically changing the way we think, act, and live.

Pythagoras, Copernicus, da Vinci, Tesla, Einstein, and Musk, just to name a few,
all bent reality. And with the right mindset, so can you.

Why is this important?

When better avenues of expansion become available, it opens us up to see what we are really capable of. It creates new opportunities for personal growth, promotes a more divergent mindset, and greatly increases one’s connection to everything around them.

Who can disrupt?

A very simplistic way to look at disruptive thinking is through the eyes of a child. In the early stages, children don’t think rationally, specifically in the prime years of learning and development. At this young age, children rely on their intuitive mindset to learn, observe, create, fantasize, imagine, and play. It’s a vital part of their development and comprehension. This is the realm where creation has no bounds. In this way, one is free to experiment, explore, and discover.

According to Noam Chomsky, children display creativity from virtually their first words. With language, they bring to bear thousands of rich and articulate concepts when they play, invent, and speak to and understand each other. They seem to know much more than they have been taught—or even could be taught.

Yet according to Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and  creativity expert, societal educational standards weed out this more disruptive and creative thinking, deeming it a luxury that doesn’t serve our immediate educational needs and replacing it with a standard of a rational mindset focused on nothing more than passing a child through to the next level.

Disruption is not predicated on social status, upbringing, or anything that provides a financial advantage. It does not demand one have a high IQ in order to access this style of thinking. And it’s available for everyone to apply, with the caveat of switching one’s current thinking style from our default standard of logical, cognitive, critical, rational, or survival thinking, to a more natural, intuitive, yet divergent and unfettered style of thinking.

What is the impact?

When disruption occurs, it opens new doors of opportunity. It changes our direction, allowing for the development of new ideas. It promotes, motivates, and encourages innovation. It offers new avenues of progress, spawning more diversified areas of education, and, additionally, its conception can also support and strengthen community expansion.

What can limit or stall this type of heightened thinking?

Belief systems, which are typically imparted to us early in our upbringing through our tribal practices, in most cases through parental guidance, school learning, social groups, or political and religious affiliations. These can all be factors that inhibit one’s ability to fully access his disruptive mindset.

How is disruption really different from innovation?

The simplest answer is that disruption is open-ended. It’s expansive. Disruption is the result of unrestricted exploration, discovery, curiosity, and continued sense of wonderment, meaning it doesn’t purposefully look for logical solutions or conclusions.

Therefore, disruption is a more messy, explorative, imaginative, and playful process of discovery, and for this reason, is more explosive in its possibilities, even though we do not know what it will initially yield.

Innovation, on the other hand, is convergent. It purposely seeks out a conclusion and resolution, especially in the areas of problem solving. It primarily looks for results and empirical conclusions that often require a finished product, service, process, or concept, these days with an emphasis for the potential of monetary gain.

When thinking isn’t constrained to a narrow focus or specific outcome, creativity and discovery flourish, ultimately becoming increasingly wide-ranging. Our default learning style teaches us to look for the one answer. This is how we are condition early in school. Divergent thinking doesn’t look for one answer, it seeks out many possibilities.

Why is disruption so much more explosive?

At its core, disruption is based upon pure imagination and fantasy that eventually becomes reality. Airplanes, automobiles, radio, television, smartphones, even Coco Chanel’s little black dress, all came from someone’s unique imagination. With the exception of nature, things don’t exist until someone envisions them. And therefore, disruption has no limits of possibility. Because it is explorative during the discovery process, it remains open, and unlimited.

How easy is this to learn?

There is nothing new to learn, however, it is important to unlearn a few limiting habits that can stall your ability to disrupt. Disruptive thinking is actually a natural part of your intuitive mindset, and therefore, the method for learning disruption is to simply reintroduce you to what was once a more playful, open state that you already know, yet may not have accessed for a long time.

The Disruptors we see throughout history have been able to maintain this heightened sense of intuitive wonderment and creativity.

Fortunately, it’s not lost to you, it does, however, take practice to reacquaint yourself to your intuitive mindset.

Who is best at disruption?

Up until the age of eight years of age, children have a natural inclination towards disruption before it is taught out of them by their tribes, schools, and societal pressures. Before then, their creative intelligence remains at an unrestricted, heightened state.

The good news is that anyone can reconnect with their own unique abilities and regain their optimal state of creative intelligence. Our default standard as adults is that we usually want to draw conclusions, because that gives us peace of mind. The elegance of intuition, however, requires one to remain open, curious, and explorative; to see everything as new – as if for the very first time. There are many examples throughout history of people who have maintained their most intuitive abilities.

It’s hard for most adults to not stay grounded in absolutes, logic, routine, and sound reasoning. Yet, like Albert Einstein has shown us, when we remain open to imaginative intuition, and are no longer predefined by the need for a specific outcome of our exploration, our pathway then becomes limitless.

Why would I want to or need to disrupt?

The beauty of disruptive thinking is that this naturally occurs deep from within oneself before it occurs externally. In this way, you are not only cultivating a powerful, natural gift, you are simultaneously promoting self-confidence, highly suppressed thinking, and a deeper, lasting connection with everything around you.

When we learn to do this internally (meaning ridding ourselves of any preconceived notions, ideas, or limiting beliefs), we become fully open and adventurous, more daring and explorative in our actions and our thinking process.

What is the best method for practicing disruption?

It is best to first read the book Disruptors, and to begin listening to your intuitive mind, while challenging your rational mind. Don’t dismiss rational thinking, it has a very important place, but as you practice intuitive thinking more, you’ll find that you will also cultivate other aspects of intuition, such as curiosity and creativity, and develop a new sense of wonderment. You’ll further find in this newer state of thinking that you’ll begin to approach everything proactively rather than reactively.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” ~ Albert Einstein

How is this system taught?

Unlearning bad habits can take a lifetime. Relearning the basic attributes of disruptive thinking is instantaneous and a much faster method for reawakening one’s true self.

By stripping away any limitations that can stall your upward movement, you are now fully confident and capable of accessing your natural uninterrupted mindset.

Five steps to a more disruptive mind:

1: Don’t draw conclusions. Remain open to both the adventure and the exploration. This fosters divergent thinking, igniting your imagination. What you want to do is to approach everything like a new adventure, exploring everything it has to offer. In this way, it will reveal itself to you in new and different ways. Get out of your adult mindset by not purposely looking for conclusions. Learn to not theorize or predispose yourself to what you think the outcome might be. Adults approach things from an experienced attitude. Even if it’s something new, they already have preconceptions of how it might turn out, what it might feel like, how it impacts them emotionally. Instead, take a lesson from your children and approach everything with a sense of wonderment.

2: Try a variety of different experiences, exposing yourself to something you’ve never done before. Traveling, trying new cuisines, meeting new people, exploring different cultures, learning another language, even experiencing new forms of transportation (trains, horses, cruise ships, caravans), can open you up in new ways. Stretching your comfort zone is a great tool for expanding your ideas and thoughts.

3: Challenge and question your current beliefs. When someone tells you something, even if they sound like an authority, question the source. In other words, do your own research and investigating to see if it is actually true. For some reason, we are in an age when if someone of authority or notoriety makes a statement, many don’t challenge its validity, i.e., ‘4 out of 5 doctors recommend Camel cigarettes’. When someone gives a Ted Talk, when a person with multiple degrees, or is the head of a corporation, or even a medical professional speaks, when an officer of the law tells us the rules, we often don’t challenge them, but instead, we accept that they are right. When you approach everything told to you with a questioning mindset, you rewrite your belief system from limiting to limitless.

4: Play and imagine. I know you are an adult, and that your version of play are adult forms of relaxation or decompressing. But consider play in a new way. As long as you are not harming yourself or another, don’t place rules or regulations on the standards of play. In fact, companies are beginning to see huge benefits by encouraging their employees to play more. This strategy helps to remove the stress of anxiety and overwhelm from the pressures of the job. Imagination can do wonders here. There are certain types of jobs that require imagination, advertising copywriting, and art directing, book and script writers, artists, designers, architects, actors, etc. And now other less artistic companies are beginning to see huge benefit and return in teaching their employees to learn how to play and imagine. It all comes down to learning one important and valuable word: “Pretend.” If you can learn to bring pretend into your world, you are able to imagine bigger, become more daring in your thoughts and ideas, and not see the limitations of the word ‘no’. And this isn’t just for movies like ‘Starwars’, or books like ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Pretend is found in flight and combat simulations, product development, and think tanks, just to name a few. Another benefit is that this style of thinking can also reduce your ego’s hold on what keeps you limited or stuck.

5: Lastly, this simple concept comes from Dr. Wayne Dyer: Always follow Rule #6. Rule number 6 is: “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” And by the way, he says there are no rules 1-5.

I hope you see that disruptive thinking can be powerful and that you now have the opportunity to incorporate it into your own thinking style. Again, this will take some practice in order to fully access it, but the process will not be a difficult one.

About The Author

Craig Copeland is a Disruptive Theorist teaching the art of finding your own unique genius mindset. Disruptive thinking is much more than what society deems as counterculture or controversial. It’s about learning how to trust in and access your intuitive mindset, which is where the biggest ideas reside, the brightest creations flourish, and the most significant life-altering changes happen. The more you can begin to master this style of thinking, the greater the opportunities, and the grander the impact you’ll make.