The Innovation Formation
This article uses football and its related strategy, tactics and player formations to challenge the way innovation is often times approached at big companies.
Sometimes the best Defence is a good offence and trying not to lose is not a recipe for winning.
If you only play defence and focus only on not losing, the only thing you can guarantee is that you won’t win the championship. You might see that you start with not conceding goals, and that indeed can be a strategy but it should only be PART of one, you should also have a plan and strategy and resources focused on how you will ALSO score goals. If you don’t score you cannot win, it’s that simple. The object of a football game is to win, not simply to NOT lose.
There are far too many organisations that focus in too hard on the NOT conceding part of a defensive strategy and risk losing the ability or drive within the team, or even the capabilities within the team for scoring goals.
Furthermore, if the captains and players promoted and praised are only ever defenders or the goalkeeper, then your strikers will start to lose their drive and eventually leave for teams where they are a more valued member of the team. Of course defenders can score goals too but it is not their core function and as such should not be relied upon as part of a plan or strategy to win the championship.
Avoiding relegation is something teams sometimes have to do, and in these circumstances a defence first approach can work for a short time but it is not a sustainable proposition and will not lead to growth or recruiting the strong and diverse team you will need to rise to the top. Even if you don’t win the league you can have a great cup run or symbolic victory that can lift the players and your fans and make growth possible.
Playing to win
You want to build and recruit a championship winning side you need to correctly balance your offence and defence. You can afford to concede some goals as long as you score more, the great sides of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United have consistently show this and it’s made them not only the worlds strongest Football brands but the most watched, because people appreciate risk and excitement and winning. No- one wants to watch a side that never scores and shown no signs of trying to. Yes you might have had glorious sides in the past and a loyal fan base to work with, but unlike football where your link to the geography of a city and the past glories gives you a base to work with, in the digital world of today, people are no longer restricted by geography and have never been LESS brand loyal, They will go where the value and the excitement is, you need to keep delivering it and cannot rest on your laurels for long, those days are gone.
Also long gone are the days where the only way you could build a great team and club was from the grass up and over a long time. Now new teams can arise almost overnight and challenge for the top at ever increasing speeds. In football the leagues systems prevent entirely new teams from fighting for the top in their first year, but they can buy their way around that by purchasing an existing team. In many Business areas they don’t even have that restriction today.
Maybe in medical areas or those of governmental affiliation there are still processes and laws to slow new competition down, but it will not stop them or save you if you do not plan for how you will beat them on the pitch once they are their playing in your league.
Innovation is the best form of offense and attacking play for a company, it is not easy to get a culture of innovation going and you will need some help along the way. Recruiting and keeping innovation talent is Key and giving that talent the space and freedom to experiment and take risks. You don’t need a huge team and you don’t need a process or templates sometimes all you need is 1 talented individual with the right blend of passion, skill, fearlessness and hunger.
Your top striker/innovator will more likely have a gift and a natural talent than have done the right degrees or training courses. Will likely be Mercurial rather than managerial and certainly won’t fit in any box or HR structure designed for defenders and defensive midfielders, who will likely represent the bulk of your company and thus be the template everyone else is measured against.
Next time you come across an employee who doesn’t fit into the company box, maybe see if they have any great ideas for taking your company forward. One of your internal people who can think outside the box might already be the natural goalscorer you are always on the lookout for.