Luke Williams, NYU professor

What Alfred Hitchcock Taught Us about Innovation with “Psycho”

The disruption of the turning point

At a recent Haworth 70th anniversary celebration, our speaker enthralled the audience by drawing a connection between the turning point in this horror movie and business success. Read on... if you dare.

Nearly everyone has seen the terrifying shower scene from the film classic “Psycho.”

When the film premiered in 1960, movie-goers were shocked. No one suspected Janet Leigh, the film’s star, would be brutally murdered in the first third of the film.

With the film, director Alfred Hitchcock pioneered the concept of “a turning point.”

At first, “Psycho” seemed to be a story about a woman on the lam after stealing $40,000 from her employer so she could run away with her lover. After driving for hours, she spots the Bates Motel and decides she is going to crawl into bed after a relaxing, hot shower.

Instead, she is stabbed to death in the tub. In that one scene, the film switches genres and moves in another direction.

“A turning point has to catch the audience by surprise by creating something completely unexpected, which sparks curiosity,” said Williams. “They just cannot wait to see where this film is going next.”

He uses the film as a way to explain why an unexpected move in business can lead to success.

Williams, who has more than 50 US patents, is the author of Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business. He is also the Executive Director of the W.R. Berkley Innovation Lab and a Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at NYU.

Turning points don't just exist in Hollywood, Williams says. They exist in business. Take Apple enabling phones with swiping, pinching, and zooming features or Netflix creating a market for streaming movies.

"Any successful entrepreneur or disruptive thinker is someone who has discovered or created a turning point.  It's taken the thinking in their segment, category, or industry in another direction."                                                                                   
— Luke Williams

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