Like a lot of breakthroughs, the Fosbury Flop looked strange the first time you saw it. Really strange.
Tom Kelley, The Ten Faces of Innovation
For all of the history of the high jump – ok, at least for all the high jumps I had ever seen in person or on television – the jumper would throw himself over the bar pretty much head first. Until Dick Fosbury won the 1968 Olympic Gold Medal with a jump so different that they named it after him: the Fosbury Flop. And now, no one is using the old-fashioned approach.
I remember the field goal kickers of my youth. They all kicked the same way. They ran straight ahead toward the football, and kicked it with the front of their toe.
Here’s an oddity – the NFL record is still held by Tom Dempsey. He kicked a 63-yard field goal for the New Orleans Saints against the Detroit Lions, November 8, 1970. Here’s the video:
(28 years later, it was tied by Jason Elam with the new-fangled-kick. And this new-fangled-kick, which looked so strange when it was first introduced, now looks like the norm. The old kick now looks strange. Watch Elam’s kick — it’s just after the 3:30 mark in this video).
These are illustrations, parables — reminding us that progress comes from innovation. Innovation is the ongoing challenge.
Call it what you will – build a culture of innovation, create an environment for innovation. The challenge is this: turn every one on your team – which is…everyone… into an innovation team partner. As Bob Morris reminds us, creativity (coming up with something truly new) its different from innovation (adapting, improving on, what already exists – making it better, faster, more efficient, more valuable, more…). Creativity may precede innovation. And, yes, there may be few creative geniuses. (although Twyla Tharp says it is a habit that can be cultivated). But most people can learn to be innovative.
And the attitudes leaders have toward those with innovation ideas and offerings is critical. Here’s a key paragraph from Kelley:
When a creative individual shows their boss – or even their colleagues – a good idea that’s still a little rough around the edges, people pay close attention to what happens next. Does the organization build on the idea or ridicule it? Does management focus on the imperfections or the promise?
I encourage the executives of the companies we consult with to “squint” a little – to ignore the surface detail and just look at the overall shape of the idea.
Here are your questions for the day:
- Are you an innovator? Are you always asking how you can improve on what is?
- Are you encouraging the innovators around you – or, do you shut them down with rejections, ridicule, the tone of your voice, even your body language? The whole group is watching your response to innovative ideas. Is your response one of “let’s give it a try,” or, is it: “are you kidding me? – I’m opposed to such ridiculous ideas…they will never work?”
Here are a couple of my observations: 1) The Fosbury Flop really did look ridiculous – at first! Not anymore! And 2) What is done one way today will be done differently (better/faster) tomorrow.
Since this is true, you may as well be the one to start innovating.
What are you waiting for? Permission?
Tom Davenport poses this question in an article written the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit email@example.com.
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How fast do you really need your information? Working with Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-CEO of SAP, I did a study of what kind of information managers need and how quickly they need it delivered. We interviewed both senior executives (15 current or former CEOs and business unit heads) as well as managers who are charged with information delivery. We also surveyed 302 senior executives at large U.S. companies about the speed with which they get the information they need and their desires for faster information delivery.
Not surprisingly, many (but hardly all) said they wanted their information faster. But there were major variations in which specific types of information they wanted at a faster pace and under what business conditions it was essential to have more speed. And because every executive interviewed had different needs and desires for information type and frequency, there is an obvious need for greater flexibility.
There are many reasons why information comes slowly and inflexibly. Some involve valid business reasons — such as the need to integrate and consolidate information across business units or links to externally-influenced business processes such as statutory financial reporting. Others are less defensible, including technologies that don’t allow for rapid information access and display. In my next post I will discuss how to remove some of these obstacles. In this one, I’ll focus on what kind of information is really needed most quickly and flexibly. It takes effort to speed up information; so knowing your priorities is helpful.
The most critical forms of information are dictated in part by your industry. For engineering-oriented firms, the product-development pipeline is vitally important. At a retail clothing chain, the type of information that was most critical was inventory levels in stores. This company worked for several years to both get it right and make it easily accessible to managers. In a primarily online business, such as an online gifts firm we interviewed, the overall cycle time is much faster than most other businesses, and the online behaviors of customers are the most critical type of information. Unique visitors, time spent on pages, click-throughs, conversions, and abandoned orders are all critical pieces of information.
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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Daily Alerts, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Davenport holds the President’s Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College. His most recent books are Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning and Analytics at Work.
The American Film Institute accepted nominations for the ten best films in each of ten categories, then conducted an international poll of the world’s greatest film authorities. Here are the top ten ANIMATION feature films:
1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2. Pinocchio (1940)
3. Bambi (1942)
4. The Lion King (1994)
5. Fantasia (1942)
6. Toy Story (1995)
7. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
8. Shrek (2001)
9. Cinderella (1950)
10. Finding Nemo (2003)
Business Lesson: Those who have mutual trust and respect and then cooperate and collaborate effectively can accomplish almost anything.
In most of these films, teamwork is the key to success. In fact, there would be no success without it. Most of the eventual victors in these films are underdogs. To some extent, their strength is in numbers but they also have street smarts and enthusiasm for facing danger together. “One for all and all for one!” They like each other and they care about each other.
You can check out the wealth of resources provided by the American Film Institute and the Internet Movie Database. Here are links to their Web sites:
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