John Lennon’s agile & disruptive thinking for startups

I studied The Beatles as part of my A-level music curriculum at school. I remember hearing the lyrics to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and thinking wow! and Mr Baker eulogising about John Lennon, and from that day, Lennon was one someone I followed.

I was never into The Beatles music apart from those songs written and sung by Lennon. He was dynamic, controversial, radical, and confrontational plus a whole lot more. There is so much more that he shared with the world apart from his music. Therein lies a depth of his wisdom

John would have been 75 years old this coming Friday, 9 October. For me, he was the most iconic Beatle. His social conscience, attitude and acerbic, verbal wit in his lyrics, and cutting, humane and distinct voice made him one of the most talented musicians we’ve ever seen. He epitomises disruptive creativity.

Lennon’s brutally confessional solo work and his political activism were a huge influence on subsequent generations of singers, songwriters and social reformers. He made people think, he made me think. In the years since his murder on December 8, 1980, his image has become a staple of T-shirts and posters, used as a symbol of individuality. He had interesting things to say, and was more interested in pushing boundaries than just making music.

I don’t think John would have been content playing his guitar at weddings and parties in Liverpool. With The Beatles, he branched out to London and Hamburg, then worldwide while still in his early 20s. Later he travelled to India and integrated the country’s musical influences into many songs. He was amongst the earliest adopters of a global perspective, embracing new ideas and culture.

Lennon’s risk-taking and creativity are clearly evident, but there was always a balance between experimentation and implementation. He didn’t just throw caution to the wind. Lennon prototyped and tested many versions of his songs, he re-recorded constantly, always looking for some new and unique angle. For each familiar hit, there were about twenty alternate takes in different styles and genres. He practiced each version over and over until something clicked. If after a while, he couldn’t come up with something that met his standards, he dumped it.

Approaching his birthday, I thought that I would share how John Lennon’s words and attitude have inspired me, the man that encouraged us all to ‘Imagine’, and how his words and thinking are relevant for startup entrepreneurs.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans it is said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Blink and a year will pass you by. Startup life is never a direct route. It weaves. It twists. It turns. But if you have a goal, a dream or a plan in place, it acts as a compass that keeps you on track, no matter what detours need to be taken along the way.

Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted Lennon was a thinker, he had a thirst for knowledge, hungry for new experiences to stimulate his creativity. Socialising you own startup idea with other entrepreneurs will help shape, inform and improve your thinking, never miss the opportunity for gaining and sharing insight

It doesn’t matter how long my hair is or what colour my skin is or whether I’m a woman or a man Startup success is not restricted to culture, gender or heritage. Successful entrepreneurs rise up from every conceivable starting point, so we never use your own state of being as an excuse for never achieving great things. One person with a dream, and a willingness to do whatever it takes can make it happen.

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality Dreams are no fun if you keep them to yourself, dreams are meant to be shared. Startups with co-founders, with like-minded entrepreneurs collaborating, have proven to be a better basis for launching successful businesses, rather than a solo founder venturing alone, so share your dream.

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination Reality, plus a sprinkle of imagination, turns that which seems impossible into something that is possible. If you can imagine it, and you can believe it, you can achieve it and imagine by asking yourself the question, ‘What if?’ Then go do.

I get by with a little help from my friends Not one of us can do it alone. Without the support of a team, a startup founder won’t get off the ground. A vibrant, relentless and talented team is vital in a startup, it lift us up when we are down, believes in each other when no one else does. The best startup teams are there in fair weather, and there when storms rage. Startup team members know when to speak and when to keep silent.

You don’t need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are! Stop listening to what others say you are. You are what you are. Ignore the naysayers, your startup is your road of self-discovery. Listen to your inner voice and stand up tall knowing who you are. I just believe in me Lennon once said, and he meant it. Have ambition that reaches way beyond your current horizon.

There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known; nothing you can see that isn’t shown; nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to beNothing happens by accident, and what appears to be the greatest mistake will in retrospect be the pivot to your startup. Find something you love and do it better than anyone else. Lennon was inspired by Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. He took the music from these pioneers and put his own touch and Liverpudlian spin on it. The outcome? It was an entirely new take on a genre, which no one was expecting.

There’s nothing that you can do that can’t be done Keep working, it makes you happy. Whether you’re a musician or a software developer or own a local bakery or retail store, you have to keep working no matter what.

If there’s such a thing as genius — I am one Create the unexpected. I always enjoy The Beatles White Album. The diversity in this album is incredible. From the beautiful melodies of Julia and Blackbird to the pounding beats of Helter Skelter and Revolution, it is truly unexpected. The Beatles were the first artists to record in stereo. They were the first band to experiment in the studio. They were the first band to list lyrics on their album.

Your audience or customers are craving the unexpected – give it to them. They want to be wowed. Why not come up with some novel, out of the box ideas like Lennon did, and give them a little clue about the depth of your uniqueness.

What we’ve got to do is keep hope alive, because without it we’ll sink. I don’t believe in yesterday, by the way Risk magnificent failures by aiming for the sky. Lennon fits this description well, he didn’t conform to standard education, which greatly contributed to his unorthodox style. In fact, like many great musicians, he held his instrument the wrong way. He experimented with made-up chords, new concepts – and had some celebrated failures in the process.

Lennon thought big. Even in the early days when starting out he used to say To the toppermost of the poppermost! and he believed it. Lennon aimed high and got there, in no small part because he believed he would get there. He stated in an interview that they treated each deliverable (i.e. song) as the hit, which is why their B-sides are better songs than most people’s A-sides.

In today’s startup environment, we have to be different to be seen. Lennon was a restless, curious individual, never satisfied with the status quo. He continuously sought self-growth, learning new philosophies and anything else he could do to break new ground. This helped him grow as an artist and human being, and further distanced himself from others as being unique. Do the same for you, and your startup business.

John Lennon’s legacy and impact is eternal. Great ones like John Lennon never really die. So much of them lasts forever.

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.

John Lennon (9 October 1940 to 8 December 1980)


Brew Dog’s disruptive innovation strategy

BrewDog is a maverick, craft beer brewing business, founded in 2006 by James Watt and Martin Dickie, located in Fraserburgh, Scotland. It produced its first brew in April 2007 and is Scotland’s largest independently owned brewery producing 200,000 bottles per month.

Childhood friends who grew up in Peterhead, Watt and Dickie started brewing together as a hobby. At the time of founding BrewDog, both aged 24, Watt was working as a deep-sea fisherman, while Dickie was a whisky distiller.

BrewDog is a ‘disruptive thinker’, its strategy, customer offering and marketing built around a range of uniquely branded beer products that capture the imagination. It has created its own market space, each beer each has an ‘identity’ and promoted as a unique, memorable product, for example:

  • Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32% ABV) – at the time, the strongest beer ever produced in a competition with German brewer Schorschbräu;
  • Sink The Bismarck! (41% ABV) – at the time, the strongest beer ever produced, in response to a brew from Schorschbräu;
  • The End of History (55% ABV) – the beer formerly known as “the world’s strongest beer”. Only 12 bottles released and packaged inside stuffed squirrels and stoats;
  • Nanny State (1.1% ABV) – a very weak, extremely heavily hopped bitter, brewed as a reaction to criticism of the high strength of their beers.
  • #Mashtag (7.5% ABV) – a brown ale loaded with hops, aged with oak chips and hazelnuts based on a collaboration of ideas generated on Twitter;

Bored of the industrially brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominated the UK market, they decided the best way to fix this predicament was to brew their own beers. They brewed tiny batches, filled bottles by hand and sold at local markets from the back of an old van. Their vision was to make other people as passionate about craft beer as they were.

Things started getting crazy in 2008, when they masterminded the UK’s strongest ever beer, Tokyo. In 2009, Punk IPA became the UK’s fastest growing alternative beer brand and they launched ‘Equity for Punks’, a ground-breaking crowdfunding campaign which saw 1300 people invest and their anti-business business model was born. They continued to push boundaries and smash people’s perceptions of what beer can be by brewing the world’s strongest ever beer, Tactical Nuclear Penguin at 32%.

2010 was a veritable rollercoaster as they opened their own venues, brewed a 55% beer and packed it in road kill, making it the world’s most expensive beer ever as they fused art, craft beer and taxidermy. In 2011, four venues were opened including a flagship London venue in Camden. In true BrewDog style they announced their arrival in the capital by driving down Camden High Street in a BrewDog tank.

In 2011, they launched Equity for Punks II, raising £2.2m and welcomed 5,000 new shareholders. 2012 saw five new venues, and 2013 was pretty epic, with a further £4.25m raised through Equity for Punks III, with 10,000 new investors from 22 different countries joining the community.

Growth in the last two years has continued, including the launch of BrewDog TV, and equally flattered and bemused when a fake BrewDog bar opened in China. Fast forward to 2014, and BrewDog saw turnover top £32m, employ 357 people, own 25 bars, 18 across the UK, and seven abroad. It exports to 52 countries.

BrewDog’s provocative marketing has been a key aspect of the business, and has gained them substantial coverage. Say goodbye to the corporate beer whores crazy for power and world domination. Swear allegiance to the uncompromising revolution. Taste the hops, live the dream. Learn to speak beer, love fruit and never forget you come from a long line of truth seekers, movers and warriors – the outlaw elite. Ride toward anarchy and caramel craziness. Let the sharp bitter finish rip you straight to the t**s.

Check out the web site, you’ll be on it for ages

Brew Dog captures the essence of the micro-brewery in a global beer market dominated by just four companies, so let’s raise a glass to the UK’s micro-brewery industry, which represents a stunning 15% of all beers sold. This surely is a nod to the UK’s entrepreneurs and SMEs as to what can be achieved in revitalising a declining market with a vibrant, intelligent and disruptive business strategy.

From the very start they were inspired to brew American-style craft beers – sweet-tasting ales with high alcohol levels and very large amounts of hops, which gave them a bold, fruity, even perfumed flavour. There are no hard and fast rules on what makes a craft beer. However, unlike Real Ale which has to be unpasteurised and unfiltered, Craft beer is also typically served chilled and carbonated.

The zeitgeist is also key. People are looking for something different. This is a complex product, made in the right way, with the right taste and flavour to be a great experience. BrewDog took a lot of its cultural values from the punk ethos – not necessarily just looking at music, but looking at how punk rock existed as an alternative to pop culture. BrewDog wanted to exist as an alternative to what people perceive beer to be.

The point was to make people reassess the value of beer and how it should be drunk, and ultimately start a movement away from the ‘4% tepid lager’ which dominated pubs. Three marketing events stand out:

  • In October 2010, BrewDog lobbied Westminster in what it called ‘The World’s Smallest Protest’ – one placard-wielding dwarf – in an attempt to tear-up UK licensing laws that stipulate beer can only be served in third, half or full-pint measures. BrewDog wanted a new ‘two-thirds’ measure introduced – and it succeeded in getting the law changed.
  • Ahead of the 2012 Olympics, BrewDog released a special edition beer named ‘Never Mind the Anabolics’, containing steroids and other substances allegedly popular – though banned – among athletes. When we were putting steroids and other banned substances in beer, the initial reaction from the media was shock, disdain and disgust, but then we were able to talk to them about the chemicals that are in beer – that started a whole discussion, said Watt.
  • ‘My name is Vladimir’, was a beer released to mark the 2014 Winter Olympics and protest against President Putin’s archaic laws around homosexuality. The website, product packaging and advertising slogans continue in the same vein.

In a highly competitive market, Brew Dog’s strategy was not to compete head-to-head with opponents, but instead to create an entirely new market and offering. This way of redefining the market – and market boundaries – has been called a Blue Ocean Strategy, developed by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

Blue Ocean is a market that is as yet undefined, there is lots of space (literally, visualise an expanse of empty blue water) and appears when a company pursues seemingly unorthodox methods. Continuing the analogy, Red Ocean refers to a situation where the market is predefined. Companies vie for a set number of customers and in order to gain market share, companies compete on price to win, thereby depleting the resources of the other companies, and leading to metaphorical ‘bloodshed’ – thereby colouring the ocean ‘red’. Many markets can be classified as red oceans.

Another business following the Blue Ocean approach is Apple, which like Brew Dog, created its own market space. But don’t be overawed by Apple’s apparent continuous stream of innovations, Apple doesn’t actually do that, it’s a user-focused fast follower and a relentless improver. Patrick Barwise and Sean Meehan developed an innovation model, Beyond The Familiar, which incorporates the Blue Ocean philosophy, and illustrates Apple’s innovation strategy as creating new market space.

When Apple enters new categories, it does so not as a pioneer, but as a user-centric fast follower. It did not invent the first online music store, integrated music offering, smart-phone or tablet, yet Apple dominates these markets with premium-priced high-end offers, which combine enhanced features and capabilities (mostly created by others), backed by brand communications, product and service design and innovation, and world-class execution. All its products live symbiotically in the Apple brand eco-system, boosting sales of the entire product family.

Having entered a new market as a user-centric fast fol­lower, it then determinedly embraces incremental improve­ment. It studies the initial customer response to the pioneers’ products and then trumps them by adding more features and benefits, and a much better user experience, well beyond what customers have had before. It isn’t a pioneer but it does innovate Beyond the Familiar.

Consider the iPod. It was not the first MP3 player. Apple learned from the earlier offers that had failed that compactness was good, but not at the expense of capacity, battery life, ease of use or attractive design. The iPod did not create a new product – it was a fol­lower, but it was the first to succeed in bringing the real benefits of an MP3 player to the premium end of the mass consumer market. It was the blue ocean strategy of ITunes that made the iPod the killer app, and subsequently added a range of better and cheaper variants such as the ‘shuffle’, the ‘nano’, and the ‘touch’.

The general framework for innovating beyond the familiar developed by Barwise and Meehan reflects Apple’s obsession with the nature and effective­ness of customer orientation, to execute the four direct drivers of long-term organic profit growth:

  • Offer and communicate a clear, rele­vant customer promise.
  • Build customer trust and brand equity by reliably delivering that promise
  • Drive the market by continuously im­proving the promise, while still reli­ably delivering it
  • Get further ahead by occasionally in­novating beyond the familiar

You can see that BrewDog are following a similar strategy, including creating their own eco-system as has Apple.

The reality is that innovation is like the old story about a teenage boy’s claims about his first kiss: everyone talks about it all the time; everyone boasts about how well he is doing it; everyone thinks everyone else is doing it; almost no one really is; and the few who are, are fumbling their way through it incompetently. (Yes, I know things have changed.)

However, Brew Dog are more of an innovator than Apple, displaying traits of disruptive innovators highlighted in The Innovator’s DNA, by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gergersen, and Clayton M. Christensen. They identify five core traits and skills that distinguish innovative entrepreneurs from the rest of us, and how they are restless and repeatedly come up with great new ideas. They researched five hundred innovators and compared them to five thousand executives and identified five discovery skills that distinguish innovators.

First and foremost, innovators count on a cognitive skill called ‘associational thinking’. ‘Associating’ happens as the brain tries to make sense of novel inputs, it helps innovators discover new directions by making connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas. Innovative breakthroughs often happen at the intersection of diverse disciplines and fields.

Frans Johanssen described this phenomenon as ‘the Medici effect’, referring to the creative explosion in Florence when the Medici family brought together creators from a range of disciplines – sculptors, scientist, poets, philosophers, painters, and architects. As these individuals connected, they created new ideas at the intersection of their respective fields, spawning the Renaissance, one of the most innovative eras in history. Put simply, innovative thinkers connect fields, problems, or ideas that others find unrelated.

The other four discovery skills trigger associational thinking by helping innovators increase the building-blocks for ‘thinking outloud’ from which innovative ideas spring. Specifically, innovators engage the following behavioural skills more frequently:

  • Questioning Innovators are consummate questioners with a passion for inquiry. Their queries frequently challenge the status quo, ask questions to understand how things really are today, why they are that way, and how they might be changed or disrupted. Collectively, their questions provoke new insights, connections, possibilities, and directions. They found that innovators consistently demonstrate a high Q/A ratio, where questions (Q) not only outnumber answers (A) in a typical conversation, but are valued at least as highly as good answers.
  • Observing Innovators are also intense observers. They carefully watch the world around them and the observations help them gain insights into and ideas for new ways of doing things. Peel attended three concerts a week to check out new bands, gaining a rich observational insight of emerging bands.
  • Networking Innovators spend a lot of time and energy finding and testing ideas through a diverse network of individuals who vary wildly in their backgrounds and perspectives. Rather than simply doing social networking or networking for resources, they actively search for new ideas by talking to people who may offer a radically different view of things.
  • Experimenting Finally, innovators are constantly trying out new experiences and piloting new ideas, unceasingly exploring the world intellectually and experientially, holding convictions at bay and testing hypotheses along the way. They visit new places, try new things, seek new information, and experiment to learn new things.

Collectively, these discovery skills – the cognitive skill of associating and the behavioural skills of questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting – constitute what Christensen et al called the innovator’s DNA, or the code for generating innovative business ideas.

There are lessons for us all in the attitudes of entrepreneurs like Watt and Dickie, their world is everything-is-possible and optimism rules. A strong sense of the possible is essential to driving innovation that in turn leads to success. Whilst the image of the swashbuckling adventure-hungry risk-taking buccaneering entrepreneur is somewhat of a caricature, positive energy and exuberance makes a refreshing change.

We all need to have new ideas, different ones, about what’s changing in our market, and how those changes could disrupt our business model. You also need to think about how you can disrupt yourself. For example, how many times have we been banging our heads against a wall for a long time with a particular problem? One of two things is true at this point, either we should keep banging our head and the wall will crumble soon, or we should do something different and hope things get better. Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, perhaps it’s time to reflect upon that.

We need to live in the future market of our business, we need to work on the business, not in the business.  The world isn’t waiting for you to get inspired, you have to inspire it, and at the same time don’t let your doubts sabotage your thinking – there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

We are all confined by the mental walls we build around ourselves, sometimes innovation starts with a critical decision to reinvent yourself and kick-start your business 2.0 – a moment of truth, flash of brilliance or the end result of a bout of determined reflection to make a difference. But whatever the trigger, take a leaf from BrewDog, pushing limits and challenging conventions, live craft and die punk.


Einstein’s festival of ideas

Besides modelling my own hairstyle on Einstein’s, I’ve always tried to adopt his maxim we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. He always had a clear view of the problems he was trying to solve, and held the determination to solve them. He had a thinking strategy of his own and was able to visualise the main stages on the way to his goals. He regarded his major achievements as mere stepping-stones for the next advance.

He also had an amazing sense of humour and humility, many of his quotes sum this up, for example: I have no particular talent, I am merely inquisitive and When a blind beetle crawls over the surface of the globe, he doesn’t realise that the track he has covered is curved. I was lucky enough to have spotted it. How could Einstein think so lucidly and produce such insights, when everyone else couldn’t see what he could?

Einstein’s research and theories are well chronicled. His more important works include Special Theory of Relativity (1905), General Theory of Relativity (1916), Investigations on Theory of Brownian Movement (1926) and The Evolution of Physics (1938). Among his non-scientific works Why War? (1933), My Philosophy (1934) and Out of My Later Years (1950) are perhaps the most important.

For perhaps the hundredth time, I’ve tried to think like Einstein and see what he saw: A burst of light is seen by two people, one stationary on a platform, the other moving in a train. Assume the speed of light is the same for both. That’s it, that’s all you need to change forever our understanding of space, time, matter, and the universe. No large Hadron Collider, no CERN, no Hubble telescope, just the clear, sharp incisiveness of one mind.

Einstein learned how to see the burst of light expanding, traveling at the same speed for the two observers. To the moving observer on the train, the circle of light expanded equally on all sides. To the stationary one on the platform, the light expanded also, but in addition Einstein saw the movement of the train caused one side to meet the wave earlier than the other side.

The problem Einstein solved, giving us E=mc2 was an old one. A generation of scientists had been trying to understand why light always seems to be going at the same speed relative to the observer. It was one of sciences’ most important and baffling problems. No laboratory is needed, only the mind and the amazing power of pure thought.

What Einstein did, he did using tools available to all of us. He had no magic wand or secret subscription to Google. He used tools and methods available to everyone, the same books and research journals available to all scientists of his day. His principal tools were a notepad, a pen and pencil. He thought and wrote and calculated, and out poured his extraordinary achievements.

What made Einstein tick? Intuition, unconventional thinking, love of the mysterious for sure, but one of the main things was Einstein’s imagination, and his approach to visualise the issues before him –  ‘thought problems,’ where he would paint a picture of the problem he was trying to sort out. His thought processes were very much about coming up with odd questions and visually thinking through their answers. His ability and courage to ask questions were just as revolutionary as his answers.

So how do we capture Einstein’s approach to seeing things others don’t, and crafting breakthrough ideas into our own everyday working lives, crafting new products and services to out think our competition? Here’s my Einstein disruptive thinking tool kit for entrepreneurs in his own words:

Imagination Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. The blokes over at Facebook, Apple and Google had all the smart computing skills and knowledge they needed to have successful careers in IT – along with tens of thousands of other techies. What makes Zuckerberg, Ives, Page and Brin household names is the fact they imagined – what if?…there was a better way to do things, and then they created it.

Look to the horizon and beyond the day-to-day I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details. Einstein didn’t waste time detracted on mundane details, he wanted to wrestle with the big things that made a difference. Einstein struggled with dyslexia, and since words are a challenge, he used a non-verbal approach to thinking and learning – thought experiments, pictorial metaphors for the ideas he was trying to understand, the best example being Schrodinger’s cat. He created the first mind-map, and painted the big picture.

Never top questioning The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One of the most important questions an entrepreneur can ask is How can I make it better? Whether you offer a product or a service, improving it is the only way to attract new clients and retain existing ones. A good example of this are windshield wipers that speed up as it rains harder.

Same problems, new ways of thinking We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Traditional book publishers printed paperback books based solely on hardback titles that had lost momentum. Ian Ballantine created Bantam Books when he realised he was limiting his profit potential by sticking to the old way of thinking. He decided to produce original paperback titles for mass-market sales. Einstein’s thinking like this resembles the Blue Ocean Strategy model.

Intuition The only real valuable thing is intuition Einstein had to trust his intuition to move forward on anything. Trusting one’s gut has led to many of the C20th greatest advances. For example, in 1971, Gillette introduced the twin blade shaving system, with two blades instead of one. Twin blades give a closer shave because each blade performs a different function. The first blade pulls up the hair so that it is unable to retract into the skin before the second blade, set at a slightly different angle, cuts it off. The twin blades set off a still-ongoing competitive frenzy of multiplication in the shaving industry, and came from an instinct on how to improve the shave.

Strong, positive attitude Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. Einstein believed it took him ten years of thinking and effort to get to a point where he was satisfied with his final theory. He was restless to a point of perfection.

Willingness to try new things – and fail Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. The continued evolution of Amazon’s Kindle – which has the reading capacity of 16 tonnes of paper – from its introduction in 2007, to the DX in 2009, Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire and now Kindle Paperwhite reflects this focus of continued reinvention, keep pushing the boundaries to keep ahead of the game.

Maintaining balance If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x, y is play and z is keeping your mouth shut. Notice Einstein didn’t put absolute amounts on each of his variables – he lived his life by constructing ‘what if’?’ formulas to look at relationships and variables. He knew getting the ingredients and then working out their relationship would lead to success. He also knew the formula was going to change. Whatever the ratio of x to y to z, entrepreneurs cannot forget y. And maybe z.

Look at problems in many different ways, and find new perspectives Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Einstein believed that to gain knowledge about the form of a problem, you begin by learning how to restructure it in many different ways. He was in good company: Da Vinci formed a relationship between the sound of a bell and a stone hitting water: this enabled him to make the connection that sound travels in waves. Samuel Morse invented relay stations for telegraphic signals when observing relay stations for horses.

Prepare yourself for chance I never think of the future, it comes soon enough Einstein had particular strengths, an acute intuition that guided him to the fertile ideas and revealing experimental results he achieved. He had a characteristic tolerance and even delight in contradiction. He didn’t question willy-nilly, he simply refused to accept theories that weren’t borne out by work he had done himself.

Einstein tells me to think about what you’ve never thought about, but also to reflect that the most consequential ideas are often right under our noses, connected in some way to our current reality or view of the world.

For example, imagine a baby bottle and being told that it changes colour as the temperature of the milk changes. Why would that be useful? Because it would help to make sure that you don’t burn the baby with milk that is too hot. Now imagine you were asked the opposite question: How can we make sure not to burn a baby’s mouth with milk that is too hot? How long would it take you to come up with a colour-changing milk bottle? You might never arrive at the idea.

We all need to have new ideas, different ones, about what’s changing in our market, and how those changes could disrupt our business model. You also have to look at how your customers tastes and needs have and may change. Another of Einstein’s quotes provides great value to business: If you can’t explain an idea simply, you don’t understand it. Failure to concisely convey a business proposition is one of the main reasons why new products – seemingly a good idea to the inventor – don’t get the attention of customers as anticipated.

You also need to think about how you can disrupt yourself. For example, how many times have we been banging our heads against a wall for a long time with a particular problem? One of two things is true at this point, either we should keep banging our head and the wall will crumble soon, or we should do something different and hope things get better. Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, perhaps it’s time to reflect upon that.

Einstein constantly lived in the future. When we talk about taking the time to reflect and ponder about the future and new ideas for our business, this is exactly what we have to do. In Einstein terms, we need to work on the business, not in the business.  But don’t just sit there and daydream, think and picture the alternate realities – realities where what you are doing today is completely different tomorrow, in order to go and find the revolution before it finds you.

The world isn’t waiting for you to get inspired, you have to inspire it, and at the same time don’t let your doubts sabotage your thinking – there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind. We are all confined by the mental walls we build around ourselves, sometimes innovation starts with a critical decision to reinvent yourself and kick-start your business 2.0 – a moment of truth, flash of brilliance or the end result of a bout of determined reflection to make a difference. But whatever the trigger, take a leaf from Einstein’s play book: logic will get you from A to B, imagination will get you everywhere.