Someone recently asked me if disruptive innovation can happen in a large home building company or does it need to come from a clean slate? I am a firm believer that some of housing's most established brands will be able to transform the world of housing in the next couple decades.

Iconic brands, like Aston Martin, were able to rethink cars in an innovative way that led the industry and created lasting changes with practices that can certainly be carried over into housing.

The Atom is the world’s most successful fully functioning concept car, and an iconic piece of British motoring history. Built in 1939 and still running today, it carries the history of the Aston Martin brand on its shoulders, and its remarkable story is loaded with innovation lessons that are relevant to today’s brands—and not just automotive ones.

Lesson 1: Lead With Vision
The Atom was the brainchild of company owner Gordon Sutherland. He believed post-war motoring would be increasingly sophisticated, requiring high-speed, cross-continental comfort. His vision was to combine the thrills of a sports car with the refinement of a saloon, and he was inspired by new thinking from outside the automotive world.

Sutherland had witnessed the early development of the delta wing in Germany in the early 1930s, and he was inspired to construct a car based on aircraft design and lightweight materials. This was the brief given to chief engineer Claude Hill, along with free rein to develop his own ideas.

These progressive leadership traits—looking outside your industry, setting an ambitious vision, and encouraging experimentation—are essential for senior executives who aspire to lead their teams to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive world.

Lesson 2: Pioneering Holistic Design

Lesson 3: Boundary-Pushing (And Defendable) Technology

Lesson 4: Flexibility is Key

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