Inside of ThoughtWorks, we have several long term themes that we try to apply at our clients and inside our companies. One of the global themes is Innovation. That's a very broad, almost empty term until we start to use Sam Newman's (the lead of the Innovation Theme within ThoughtWorks) definition:
> Innovation is the application of disruptive thinking.
A place where our clients and ThoughtWorks can apply disruptive thinking is how we structure and maintain teams. Often we will build a set of tools for the team and never attempt to disrupt those tools. I see this at every client and with nearly every project. These tools and practices are a form of tribal knowledge that sticks with teams, companies and the industry.
The challenge comes from the complacency of the members of team to the process of developing software. Why challenge what works? we ask. The problem is that if we aren't actively disrupting, we are stagnating. Competitors and industry will continue to disrupt--often in the form of upstarts that aren't holding the baggage of previous assumptions, practices and norms.
The best way to challenge the tribal knowledge that we build inside of our companies is to approach everything from an outsiders perspective. This can often be seen when a new team member joins a team and is constantly challenging why the team is doing a practice "in *that* particular way" or suggesting "we did *this* on my last project." These challenges are healthy even if they are sometimes uncomfortable.
Beyond bringing people in from other teams, we can approach our own experiences through the eyes of the beginner. We get to play the role of someone that is newly joining the team and challenging assumptions but also get to leverage the experience that we've built up. The combination of a beginner's viewpoint and impartial experience can be a huge boost to disruptive thinking.