Exclusive book excerpt: To be a top disruptor, start with a zombie idea

Jay Samit

Jay Samit

By Jay Samit
CEO, SeaChange

The following is an excerpt from Jay Samit’s just-published book, Disrupt You! Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation.

After finally honing all of their observations down to one big idea, most people are afraid to act on it. One of the most common misconceptions of having a big, disruptive idea is that if word gets out, someone with better connections and more money will steal your creation. After David Fincher’s movie The Social Network came out in 2010, a paranoia set in with young entrepreneurs that they were going to get “Zucked.” As in: if you tell anyone about your idea, the next Mark Zuckerberg is going to come steal your idea and become the billionaire that you were destined to be. The result of this hysteria was that budding disruptors were afraid to tell anyone their brilliant ideas. Wanting to build creations in stealth mode, with no collaborators or funding whatsoever, is an unrealistic impossibility. Many first- time entrepreneurs approach me with nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) for fear that even one unprotected whisper of their concept could result in their fortune riding off like an unchained bike on a college campus. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Nobody is going to steal your stupid idea,” Founder Institute head and serial entrepreneur Adeo Ressi loves to tell first-time entrepreneurs. The Founder Institute is the largest startup accelerator in the world. It has helped launch over 750 companies in five continents, and more than 40 percent of these incubated companies get funded. Still, Ressi is so confident that ideas won’t be stolen that he offers a $1,000 reward to anyone in the Founder Institute who can get their idea stolen.

When Steve Jobs went to technology leaders with his prototype for a personal computer, he was met with derision. Jobs recalled the experience in an interview with Classic Gamer magazine: “So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’”

Instead of trying to promote your idea, as Jobs had done, Ressi’s advice to young entrepreneurs is startlingly counter-intuitive. According to Ressi, your goal is not to promote and protect your idea, but rather, “Your job is to kill your dumb ass idea.”

Ressi is absolutely right. A disruptive idea shouldn’t be nourished like a seedling with the expectation that it will grow into a mighty oak. The trouble with most entrepreneurs is that they would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. Your job is to try everything you can to kill your big idea and discover every way that it can fail. When you discover a crack in your plan, fi x it, reshape it, and make it stronger. The Japanese have an art form called kintsugi. They fix broken pottery with gold lacquer resin, believing the repaired ceramics are more gorgeous and precious than they were before they were destroyed. The same applies to killing and reviving your big idea. Through that process you build a strong, defensible, beautiful business that the competition and market factors can’t destroy. Much like forging steel, ideas are baked in a fiery cauldron to harden and solidify before being unleashed upon the world. You don’t want a big idea; you want what I like to call a zombie idea: no matter what is thrown at it, a zombie idea can’t be stopped or killed.

Keeping the idea to yourself isn’t much help, either. If your idea is truly original, you will have to scream about it at the top of your lungs to get anyone to notice. You will take it to dozens of potential investors, friends, and family, and experts in the industry, who will all tell you it is the worst idea they’ve ever heard. Most will list a dozen reasons why it will fail. If your idea is truly disruptive to a market, get used to hearing the word no. If your idea isn’t original, then it is even harder to convince people to invest. They’ve heard it before, and they can rattle off the names of three companies that have failed in the space. For a so-called obvious idea, you will need to show why your approach is different and timely.

Excerpted from DISRUPT YOU! Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation Copyright © 2015 by Jay Samit. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Prior to taking on the position of CEO at SeaChange, Jay Samit was president at social video chat service ooVoo, and CEO of SocialVibe. He has previously held senior executive roles at Sony and EMI, where he spearheaded those companies’ digital media efforts. His new book, Disrupt You! Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation, is now available.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at RDawn (@) accessintel.com

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