Innovation requires leadership, NOT management

Management stifles innovation because it is focused on

  • Controlling resources to optimize predictable outcomes (what you already know and do)
  • Protecting system bias and the status quo
  • Using legacy measures (e.g. short-term financials for business; “NFL Combine” scores for athletes)

Leadership drives innovation because the focus is on …

  • Inspiring teams and individuals to create new and unimagined outcomes
  • Challenging paradigms and asking “what if …?”
  • Integrating new measures and ways of thinking (e.g. mid-term value creation in business; data models or Unleash Sports* attribute models in sports)

Improvement requires more “doing” than “designing”

New ideas/techniques need to be tried, refined and adapted to reality (otherwise you may “perfectly execute” a flawed plan)

  • Theory rarely transfers as imagined when used in real situations, but rather requires experimentation to adapt to unknown variables (e.g. how rivals respond and environmental variables in sports; what consumers really value and market conditions in business)
  • Team members should not be expected to be “psychics” (i.e. know all the answers beforehand)but should be trained as “top athletes in a flow state” (i.e. adapt and develop best strategy based on data/feedback experienced)
  • Mastery comes from deliberate practice outside your comfort zone (becoming skilled in new things to improve performance incrementally)

Culture and environment are key levers

Competitive athletes and businesses need to create spaces where failure fuels learning (i.e. recognized for trying, independent of outcome)

  • If trying something that DOESN’T work (immediately) results in ridicule or punishment, people will become risk-averse and plateau (they will stay in their current “competence” zone)
  • Teams and organizations must purge “cultural antibodies” that kill anything new and different
    (fear of change)
  • Distribute “get out of jail” free cards to empower team members to try and fail in real-world situations
    (the power of the “cards” lies in the executive/coach assuming the outcome and repercussions)
  • Behaviours are tied to a set of core beliefs. people react based on what they believe will happen, not empty words or theory