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Innovation is a Marathon - Are Your Runners Prepared?

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

The variables of a runner running a marathon (Video Transcript)

Today we're going to be talking about innovation, the Marathon of innovation, and a couple of the problems I see often in companies when they're starting out new to trying to innovate in their industry or in their company. The first, of two mistakes, usually it's a lack of vision, and where it is they want to go or take the company with this innovation. Two it's a lack of inner work.

What do I mean by the inner work? Let's look at for a minute the example of a marathon runner. Right. I haven't run any marathons myself and quite frankly after a year of lockdowns I'd be lucky if I could

run down the street for a block or two. But you know, I prefer to take the bike at my age anyway. But we all know that marathon runners are insidious trainers. They have such a routine for their health and their exercise and fitness regiment, their sleep regiment, even the routine that they have on the day of the race - the shoes they wear, the pants they wear. You know where everything is planned to the minute detail. They know when they skip meals, when they carb up, all those things go into running a marathon. You just don't show up and run the race.

The business equivalent to a marathon

And I liken that to innovation because there are so many details in innovations that have to be looked at. To break this analogy down the race is obviously the marketplace and that's where businesses go to race against their competitors. The product or service is what carries you through the race perhaps it's the tennis shoes that the marathon runner wears or those special shorts that don't chaff their thighs or, you know, if they're running an Iron Man marathon, then it's their bike, whatever it is the equipment that you're bringing to the race that's going to get you from the start to the finish.

But even that doesn't take into consideration the entire aspect of the runner, they're still the runner himself and for the company, the runner is your organization, it is the employees within your organization. It would seem ludicrous, for you to show up to run a marathon thinking as long as you knew the race where it started where it ended what you would expect along the way that you could win the race, or even to think that if you were a marathon runner and you knew the racecourse and you knew all the details of route the race and that you also had the top of the line equipment, you know the best shoes the best, you know, sunglasses, the best bike whatever it is you need for that particular race that you could still be able to win the marathon. It's ludicrous to think that that's all that you would have to do in order to win the marathon. No, you would have to train for the race. You would have to innovate your body with the right nutrients, the right rest, the right workout routines. There's so much that happens inside the body of the runner, and for an organization in the marathon of innovation, there's so much that goes on inside the body of the company. And it is that body that allows them to build the or obtain or build the products and services and run the race. But so often companies are so focused on the race, the products, and the services that are going to win the race, but they forget the inner work.

Innovation requires inner work

The inner work on the body, and what's going to help keep it in optimal shape, so that they can run the race without getting tired, without, a muscle cramp throwing them off on the side of the road. Without a health issue, taking them down, or some other form of an emergency. Companies are quick to go straight to the race or straight to the product service. When in the end they neglect the body, the company itself. For instance, in the marathon world in 1960 I believe it was, and I may be saying his name wrong but a gentleman from East Africa, Abebe Bikila won a marathon. What shocked the world was not only did he run the marathon and he was pretty much a nobody at that point, but he also ran it barefoot. In our innovation analogy, he had no product or service to carry him. It was only this. His body and the health of his body the inspiration of His Spirit that carried him across the finish line. And so much of what is happening in organizations today are not nourishing the spirit of the individual in their company. They're not building them up, they're not getting them healthy, they're not preparing them for the race, they're definitely not equipping them to run the race, efficiently. For example, I have friends that work in one of the leading technology firms in the country in the world actually. She always laughs about them being the cobbler's son because of the technology they use. Even though they're the leading technology company around the globe, the technology their employees are working on is decades old.

Is the inner work keeping you from winning the race

And so, that is often what is holding companies back. It's not that they don't know the race or what's happening in the race or what obstacles are entailed in the race. It's not that they don't have the best equipment. Quite frankly, look at some of the disruptors in the industries that you're in, and you'll find they don't, they didn't know anything about the equipment. For instance, Airbnb knew nothing about the hotel industry, yet they come out of nowhere because they had the inspiration, the spirit to run the race, knowing that they were prepared, personally, or as a company, not necessarily as a product. You can also see that in products that aren't as great as your product or service, but yet they're beating the pants off of you. That makes you dig a little deeper and look into, you know what's going on in that organization that those people are so on fire and pumped up about maybe even an inferior product that is making them run the race and win it.

So my message to you today is innovation is like a marathon and marathon is more than just about getting in the race, it's about the product and service you offer the equipment that you use in your race as well as how you prepare the body which is the company in the organization. Is it strong? Is it healthy? Does it have the best of everything that it needs in order to fulfill what it needs to accomplish in the race?

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