In honor of the Soccer World Cup just on the way in Brazil, I thought to share with you an inspirational story from the sport’s history. It is a wonderful illustration of the power of defying conventional wisdom, with rich parallels to the world of business strategy.
The Hungarian national team of the 1950s is widely considered one of the most successful squads in the history of European football, by far the world’s most popular sport. In a six year span the team went undefeated (aside from the controversial World Cup Finals match against Germany in 1954), scoring over 4 goals a game, and recording the highest rating ever for a national team. They won the 1952 Olympics, and in 1953 decisively beat England 6-3 in the ‘Game of the Century’ in front of 105,000 people at Wembley Stadium. The English invented the game in the middle of the 19th century and had gone undefeated for nearly one hundred years before succumbing to the Hungarians. The torch was being passed.
At the end of April, I hosted a ‘Re-Imagine Dinner’ event for a group of sixteen VIP attendees in Kansas City’s premier boutique design studio. The purpose of these dinners is to enable guests to experience the principles of continuous re-invention in a special, intimate setting and to converse on the topic with other, stimulating guests. My role is to be the provocateur, navigator, gondolier for the evening. The outcome is a combination of deep learning, memorably culinary journey and exhilarating fun.
In my previous blog, I gave a comic illustration of the innovation shortcut logic. But how about an inspirational, real life example of its application? I have just the one for you: The Help Desk, from India.
It is a perfect example, because it makes use of an ordinary, low cost, discarded item in a deceptively simple new way to create value. In the process, the Help Desk not only recycles waste into a marketable product, but also drives important social benefits by aiding the education of children in impoverished, rural areas.
When pursuing meaningful innovation, the exciting thing is that you don’t need to invent anything outright. Rather, you can take the Innovation Shortcut: Seek out fresh uses and combinations of already existing components to generate new value.
As a humorous example, consider the International Date Line, and its possible use for creating new value within the office rental market. Essentially by crossing this imaginary line you can gain or lose an entire day. By building an office complex right on it, a real estate developer could offer the combination of two attractive components: An exotic, off-shore location, plus a flexible solution for effective time management.
A central premise of my Slingshot Framework is the need and power of connecting emotionally with your target audience. Whatever business you are in, you must strive to fill not just a functional need, but also to capture the hearts of your customers. Establishing and re-stoking such a connection has immense benefits: It keeps you relevant and close to your customers, allows you to be positioned as a provider of lifestyle or workstyle enrichment and to command a premium price.