Monday, April 30, 2012

It’s All In the Design

Innovation, like sports, has a design. You cannot just do anything and say you are doing well. That is contrary to Nike’s “Just Do It” commercials. In basketball, for example, you cannot just throw the ball in the air and say you scored, nor can you dribble anywhere and go down court. There are boundaries to the court. There are constraints to the design of basketball and the way you play. It is within these constraints that each player has the possibility of being extraordinary.

For the extraordinary players, the boundaries give him or her the edge. The boundaries could mean there is only so much that can happen within the allotted time and space. Therefore, the best player can see the court and its design as a whole instead of just looking at the events occurring in front of them. Understanding the design allows you to foresee the range of possibilities before they take place.

When you can see the whole, it is easier to see gaps and fill them with something that never existed. That is innovation. Innovation itself has a design. Like basketball there may be constraints, and that has nothing to do with being limited. Part of the design of innovation requires you to let go of presuppositions and the belief you are limited.

As a rule, the best of the best in any undertaking understand the possibility of inventing the game. Most people learn the game and do it well. The extraordinary players learn the game and then invent it. They play the game in a way that has never been played before. The same goes for any profession. A person prepares himself or herself to play the game in a way that it has never been played before. They develop a mindset to produce extraordinary. They practice in a way that may seem counterintuitive. They may do exercises and drills that seem foolish, and they do it within the design of the game.

If you get that everything in life has a design with built-in constraints, you begin to understand that life is less about constraints. It is more about understanding what you want to create and preparing yourself, while simultaneously being honest about your limiting beliefs. If you believe you cannot have something, you will figure out a way to sabotage your efforts and blame other people. Take a step back and look at the whole design, not at what is impossible; instead find what can be possible by filling in the gaps.

If you work against the design like the player always fighting the refs, it is easy to miss opportunities and live with regrets. In life, there are people who believe that everything is a fight and they will go out of their way to prove that. In some cases, the act of proving could be a form of working against the design.

In your organization, think about its design. There are customers, vendors, managers, employees, media and a flow of information in and out of the company. There is a design to it; it is not haphazard. Can you see the whole design? Can you see the gaps? What can you prepare yourself to do, such that, you fill gaps in the design and make something happen that would not have happened without you being there?

Every enterprise has gaps. Every organization needs people who can step up and fill those gaps. Why shouldn’t it be you?

What do you think? I would love to hear what you think.