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You’ve all heard the rallying cry:

“Disrupt or die”

But disruption isn’t enough. You need to disrupt with purpose. Here’s a little story about why you need to be mindful about your disruption.

When I was around 10 years of age I took my primary school out on strike. I went to a little school in the English Midlands. Only 120 pupils. I got around half of them out on strike with me. Why? Because the dinners were shit. I mean of course that they were probably pretty good but this was the 1970s and we liked space dust, crispy pancakes, golden nuggets and anything else that had been mass-produced and filled with cack. I was keen to move to a system that allowed you to bring sandwiches in rather than being forced to eat Hungarian Goulash every Thursday. The other comrades — sorry kids, agreed. So after a few hours out on the playground chanting “we want sandwiches, down with dinners” the Management — sorry teachers (this was the 70s remember, everyone was on strike) — relented and we were allowed to bring sandwiches in from home. Or I should say most of us were. My Mum rightly decided that I would eat too much crap food and insisted that I remain on cooked dinners.

When the first day of the new regime arrived I was first in the queue and was greeted by a smiling Mrs Thomas (the nicest of the dinner ladies — the others were fierce) and she said:

“It’s good that you’re still on dinners Mark” (she knew what I’d done, she knew I was the ringleader). “Because, if everyone brought sandwiches I’d lose my job”.


Suddenly the implications of my disruption, maybe even innovation (remember this was the 70s) hit home. If you fuck with things people can get hurt. Roll on a decade and all this came to pass. No more Mrs Thomas.

This early lesson in responsibility hammered home a few things:

1 You can make a difference no matter how small you are.
2 “Leadership” is more about confidence and swagger than bullying.
3 Good ideas can hurt people.
4 With power comes responsibility.
5 Three hours on a cold playground is a long time.

I never apologised to Mrs Thomas (or her son Richard who probably had to go without Rise and Shine, Spangles, or Cabana bars). Sorry Mrs Thomas. On the up-side I bet Richard’s teeth survived.

Learn how to develop disruptive ideas that have purpose on my one day course:

Do Disrupt. How to create an innovation culture. And why it matters. Like, really matters.

London. May 27. £300.

Words by Mark Shayler

The Encouragement Network |

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