my disruptive life

l design disrupted

You know that I’m an interior designer specializing in restaurant design. You’ve read my bio. But you read my posts daily and wonder how does all of this writing fit with your understanding of what I actually do for a living? The answer is I’m practicing my own version of disruption.

Disruptive thinking is the term of 2014. And it follows close on the heels of design thinking. According to Fast Company, design thinking is a ‘proven and repeatable problem-solving protocol that any business or profession can employ to achieve extraordinary results’. Disruptive thinking takes this idea a step further and in a slightly different direction. To think disruptively you must look where you haven’t looked before to find first the problem that no one has yet discovered, then solve it creatively. Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business, published in 2010, was written by Luke Williams, fellow at frog design’s New York office and an Executive Director at the NYU Stern School of Business. (frog design, if you will recall, was instrumental in helping Apple Computer create its design edge.) Luke Williams contends that finding the problem, disrupting the status quo, is the first creative step in the process. Much like scrum has transformed the way problems are viewed and solved, disruptive thinking transforms the way processes are viewed then re-defined and executed. According to Williams, there are 5 steps to disruptive thinking:

  1. Craft a disruptive hypothesis: be wrong at the start to be right at the end
  2. Discover a disruptive opportunity: explore the least obvious
  3. Generate a disruptive idea: unexpected ideas have fewer competitors
  4. Shape a disruptive solution: novelty for novelty’s sake is a resource killer
  5. Make a disruptive pitch: under prepare the obvious, over prepare the unusual

In my case, I’m at number two: discovering my opportunity. I’ve designed space for over twenty years and loved it, except the part where design separated me from the research and writing that feeds me. So on weekends and during my scarce evening hours (I am raising two kids remember), I’ve taken classes and written fiction and essays. Fun, yes, and a nice distraction, but not fulfilling. So I’ve battled with how to be both a designer and a writer for years and finally had that ah ha moment a few months ago….just do both and see where it leads! That is my Disruptive Hypothesis. I’m doing this by reading and writing every day about things that are connected with design, architecture and food. The only three things that I know for sure are that I am a designer, I am a writer and one feeds the other. By researching and writing from the perspective of a designer I am finding ways to meld the two, making me better at both.

As I continue to research and write, I learn daily about all of the possibilities out there and I get closer to disrupting the current system and finding a place we haven’t been before, a place where design and writing can work together that allows me to contribute meaningfully.

That is my very long winded answer to the many who have asked me….what do you do?

Have a great week,


6 replies
  1. Fred Barson says:

    Leslie, really interesting thoughts. Just a couple of observations. Interior design is so sensually rich: fabrics, color, composition, a joining of opposites — metal, wood, glass, finishing, etc;. and prose (whether fiction or expository work) is so linear, do you read or write poetry? You might find poetry is more complimentary to your design than prose.

  2. Leslie says:

    Great observations Fred….design is not a linear process at all. That’s where the two sides of the brain (if there really are two) seem to conflict and conjoin in an ongoing battle. Or maybe some sort of odd affair. I find that writing, and especially the research that precedes it, feeds that oddly circular cycle that ebbs and flows. Poetry is a great lark for me, but doesn’t feed the designer need the same way that prose does. Poetry is more a vent…a letting go, which I enjoy very much as well.

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