Disobedient Thinking

Jeff Howe, Founding Director of Northeastern’s Media Innovation Program, was a journalism professor of mine when I was a sophomore. At the time, I didn’t want to be in his class; I didn’t want to be studying journalism at all.

I was at a cross-roads where I had already dedicated countless hours to a minor in journalism, but had recently discovered the world of social entrepreneurship. I was ready to throw the minor away all together, and dedicate myself completely to the world of sustainable business practices, until I picked my head up.

Sitting in Professor Howe’s class was unlike the traditional Northeastern classroom experience. He cursed incessantly, he interrupted students, he shared intimate stories of his various, somewhat journalism-related, escapades. He showcased disobedient thinking.

I stayed in his class, kept the minor in journalism, and picked up a second minor in Global Social Entrepreneurship.

Two years later, I find myself sitting in another Northeastern University room, listening to Professor Howe rant incessantly once again. As a featured speaker of the University’s President Speaker Series: The Future Of, Professor Howe presented the findings of his recent book Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future, which he co-authored with, MIT Media Lab Director, Joi Ito.

Their book, which I’ve yet to read but am soon to devour, is about the future as it relates to innovation. It is made of up nine concepts, each of which applies disobedient thinking to traditional systems. As Professor Howe explained at the event, and as many of my social entrepreneurship teachers have engrained in me, innovation is disruption. We look at systems that aren’t working, and disrupt them to inspire change. This can be done through the creation of a new innovation, however, more often than not, the innovation is the disruption itself.

Disruption, innovation, and disobedient thinking work in a cyclical pattern, relying upon each other to reach the ultimate goal of true, authentic and genuine impact.

How to survive our faster future? According to Professor Howe, the answer is disobeying and disrupting existing systems. Luckily for me, I passed his class, and will be graduating as a classified disobedient thinker.