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Training For The Innovation Ultra-marathon

Training For The Innovation Ultra-marathon

| On 15, Feb 2008

James Todhunter

In “Forget about an idea marathon,” Katie Konrath uses the metaphor of racing and marathons to discuss how to work on creating a lot of ideas when the need arises.  The analogy is interesting because in business, the race never ends.  As soon as we deliver a product to the market place, we begin asking what’s next.  Where will the competition come from?  How will we improve our position?  We are in the ultimate ultra-marathon—one does not end.

[IMG title=”Cliff Young” style=”FLOAT: right; MARGIN: 0px 0px 5px 5px” alt=”Cliff Young” src=”” border=0]

This is why the issue of sustainable innovation practice is so important.  It is not enough to be innovative once.  We must constantly innovate, and re-innovate.  To stop innovation, is to stagnate.  In business, stagnation is a sure path to failure.

Looking to the world of ultra-marathon running, we can learn a lesson about innovation practice.

In 1983, a potato farmer entered the Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon.  Cliff Young was not so young at the age of 61.  He had also never run a marathon before.  When he showed up to run the race in overalls and gumboots, many people thought he was laughable.  Running the race, Cliff’s shuffling gait was outpaced by the younger and more fleet of foot runners.  But when the other runners quit for the night, Cliff kept running, and running, and running.  After four days of running non-stop, Cliff crossed the finish line first and set a new record for the course beating the previous record by nine hours.

Afterwards, Cliff explained to the press that whenever a storm was approaching he would have to round up all the sheep on his 2000 acre farm buy running around after them.  So during the race he just imagined that he was rounding up sheep trying to keep ahead of a coming storm.  Today, the Young-shuffle is used by many ultra-marathoners.

The lesson for innovation practitioners is integrate innovation practice into what you do everyday.  This continuous reinforcement of innovation best practice will ensure that you are fit and ready to win the innovation ultra-marathon.

[Crossposted from]