Apple evangelist reveals the art of innovation

Ever since the term disruptive technologies was coined nearly 20 years ago, it has come to be associated with the most exciting, game-changing innovations. But how does one transform a Eureka moment into a fleshed-out business idea for a product or service that will radically remake an industry—or launch a new one? What separates winners from losers?

I've spent a good portion of my career as a chief evangelist for Apple and advising companies worldwide on innovation and wealth creation.

Disruption is the only way to stay relevant, meaningful and profitable over the long run. Very few companies disrupt anything at all, but some companies, like Apple and Google, have disrupted markets time and time again. What do they know about the art of disruption that other companies don't? Here are the principles they follow.

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Make meaning. The raison d'etre of disruption is the desire to make meaning. This requires powerful perspectives, like "changing the world" and "making the world a better place." For example, Apple changed the world by democratizing computing, and Google made the world a better place by democratizing information.

Jump to the next curve. Disruption doesn't occur when companies produce a slightly better status quo and fight it out on the same curve. Disruption occurs when you get to the next curve or create the next curve. Macintosh isn't a slightly better Apple II. Uber isn't a slightly better limousine service. A 3-D printer isn't a slightly better laser printer. PayPal isn't a slightly better Western Union.

Don't wait for perfection. Disruptive companies can ship. They don't sit around cogitating until the market passes them by. They jump curves and go to market. The first laser printer was much better than the best letter-quality printer, but it was hardly perfect: single-sided, one size of paper, slow network and a $7,000 price point. This is not to say that disruptive companies ship crap. They ship disruptive products that have elements of crappiness.

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Churn, baby, churn. This is perhaps the hardest part of disrupting a market, because creating and shipping a disruptive product requires a different mind-set from churning or revising a product. However, if a company has "not worried and been crappy," then version 1.0 must evolve to 1.1, 1.2 and eventually 2.0. This alteration of mind-set is often a monumental task.

Stop and smell the flowers. Disruptive companies are flexible and opportunistic. They take their best shot at targeting customers and intended uses of their products, but when unintended customers use their products in unintended ways, they seize the day. Apple didn't plan for people to use Macintosh as a desktop-publishing machine. Desktop publishing, because of PostScript and Pagemaker, was a flower that blossomed and ultimately saved Apple.

Don't let the bozos grind you down. The more disruptive the product, the more current stakeholders will denigrate it. They'll say that it can't be done, shouldn't be done and will never sell. They may cite tradition and regulations as reasons, too. Consider Uber and Airbnb. Who's fighting them the most? It's not the customers who use the services. It's the status quo who is trying to preserve the status quo. Disruptive companies don't let negativity and resistance to change stop progress.

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This is the gist of the art of disruption. May you use these principles and the inspiring work of the companies that we are profiling to change the world.

—By Guy Kawasaki, special to

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, a disruptive graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple.