Editor's Note

Disruption Is More Than the Buzzword It's Become

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This story appears in the June 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The twisty, curvy road to innovation is lined by a boneyard of failures, some catastrophic and some less so. Call them what you will—flameouts, burnouts, cash burners, dogs—the end result is the same: road pizza.

But this is not unexpected. Any time you introduce change and herald new ways of thinking, failure is a possibility. 

In an organization, stagnation by lack of innovation is a death knell. This is the part where the big, slow-moving, keep-as-is companies tend to get knocked into the boneyard. Some people simply cannot embrace innovation. Politicians, policymakers and old-school accountants are not prone to change. (Nor is Russia, but that’s another story.)

Where the stagnant reside is where you’ll find opportunity. The risk-reward equation rests heavily on the side of innovation. But innovation is challenging. The best advice I’ve heard about it is quite simple: Don’t look down; don’t focus on the obstacles. Look in the direction you want to go, and that’s where you’ll end up. Focus, vision and a clear view of your endgame are the ingredients for success—and for disruption.

But what is disruption? We sling that term around pretty freely. Disruption is a seismic event. It can be destructive or it can be constructive. It is at the intersection of “How it’s always been done” and “The new approach.” It’s the thing that causes revolutions of thought. It’s what brought us the internet and email and Tindr. It’s what brought us out of the Dark Ages and into the Renaissance. It’s a freshness of thinking that creates change. It is the very foundation of this country.

You are driving that change. You are a part of something important and soulful. It doesn’t matter if you own a doughnut shop, a dry cleaner, a tech startup or a franchise. Your ability to see new things and innovate fearlessly in your approach to business is the key to disruption. And all of it together is key to making a lasting economic impact and creating lasting opportunities.

The accelerated, frenetic pace of innovation right now is undeniable and very much a part of our culture. And business is a direct reflection of our culture, no matter where it’s headed.

For these reasons, once a year we look at 100 companies doing brilliant things, reinventing ideas and reimagining markets. This is the magic fairy dust of entrepreneurship: people doing things no one ever thought possible. It’s a subjective list, nothing scientific. It’s not based on revenue or cash burn. It’s simply 100 cool, breathless, new ways of seeing things. 

Like those on our Brilliant 100, you are the drivers of change. Risking failure is part of what you do as an entrepreneur. So our mantra for you is this: Don’t look down but move forward, have a clear view of your direction, and keep everything simple. You are limited only by your own imagination.

Edition: December 2016

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