There are many ways to facilitate leadership in innovation – from my experience here are 3 that could facilitate Innovation in you.
1. When you pay attention to what your people or clients are saying about your product or service, you will likely “see” gaps. Innovation is required to discover what is in those unknown gaps.
2. The process to innovate is sure to be bumpy, but if you can stomach making mistakes and learn quickly from failure, you could thrive.
3. I have found that meditation and prayer can greatly transform your brain and open up paths of innovation. I’ll tell you the story of how the name Rocky Mountain Bicycles came to me…
I look forward to your comments!
This is a transcript of the video, provided for those that prefer reading:
How do you begin to see things that others don’t see? Or how do you have the insight to explore things that are just unknown? Over the past 50 years, my business experience has been marked by different innovations and I would say probably, there are many ways but here are three ways to facilitate innovation.
The first would be to discover the customer’s pain points. Now, you won’t find that by just asking them. You have to really seek it out. And in the early days of my business, I was with West Point Cycles as one of the owners and we were the same as every other bike shop in the city. We were selling 10-speeds: they were Norco’s, Apollo’s, Rally’s, Peugeot’s. Everyone was selling the same bike and really it was a race to the bottom to see who could price them cheaper, who could service them and get them out the door as fast as possible.
We realized that the customers were coming back and complaining about these new bikes. In within the year, their wheels had come out of straight because the Vancouver streets were just full of potholes and so the wheels weren’t lasting or the bearings would lose their grease and the wheel would get all wobbly or the bottom bracket; the saddles that they sat on were very stiff and hard; and the handlebars were, well, they were built for racing and they weren’t really built for a Vancouver rider.
So we thought why don’t we redesign these bikes before they actually leave the shop and at quite a bit of cost to the customers we would change the handlebars, the seat, put in a much better quality of lithium grease, and change the spokes out with a better quality spoke as well.
This created a better bike and customers liked it that fact some of them called it the West Point 10- speeds. We enjoyed it because we were giving the customer a more authentic experience of riding something we really enjoyed as a bike shop, as the staff. And it really created kind of our first brand that was exclusive to us that no other shop was doing and pushed us on the way towards innovating the mountain bike.
And then number two, facilitating that innovation comes through not trying to find success but actually accepting failure as part of the journey. Later on when suspension became really critical on mountain bikes because as they were going faster over the trails, they needed to be able to not only soften the bunks— but even out the terrain so that they could accelerate over the bumps and still maintain contact with the ground. Well, this was known.
Motocross industry had done this for years and so motocross engineers would come into the bicycle fields thinking they could supply suspension to bicycles as well. But a motocross motorcycle with a motor that transfers the power to the rear wheel is very consistent. It’s delivered by a throttle and it’s very consistent. On a bicycle, what’s the engine? Well, it’s 2 massive pistons called legs that pound up and down on the pedals in a very inconsistent manner throwing all sorts of forces to the side of the bicycle…and up and down and then finally into the chain in an erratic fashion.
You can imagine, you just take the suspension on a motocross and put it into a bicycle— it doesn’t work. So, failure. But imagining through that failure what success could be came two really quite remarkable systems for the early days: the amp system we used on the Edge and then the sweet spot system that we used on the Speed. Both had trouble: the Edge was very stiff, very very heavy and none of our riders or pro racers used it and then the Speed, well, I tried that one out on a particular downhill as op back off the saddle and the thing pushes you forward over the handlebars. It kind of launches you when you hit a bump. I got launched and broke my ankle in about six spots.
I still have the metal plates in the ankle to prove it. So that’s the second way to facilitate innovation: it’s by making mistakes and then learning from them to create a product which the suspension systems on now are beautiful. They not only absorb the bumps but they don’t absorb the pedal stroke.
Third and final: facilitating innovation. This one’s a little bit unique and I would say you won’t find it in very many Harvard Business Reviews.
But it’s through meditation. And for me taking a plane ride or going for a long bike ride, or just in the morning sitting and just breathing and meditating. For me it’s often with a centeredness on God, who’s for me a loving God—loving, caring with his own thoughts that are quite unique from mine and trying to understand thoughts that are not mine. In other words, in my case, God’s thoughts. But for you it could be different: centering on something other than you and allowing your breath and your meditation to take you places that aren’t normally in your e-mails or the whirlwind of your daily activity.
For me, that was an airplane seat that I often would get in on Edmonton to Vancouver flights because I had bike shops in Edmonton and in Vancouver in the early days. And Rocky Mountain had just started; but there was no name for this company and no mountain bikes. And as I was flying over the mountains and seeing the prestige and the power, just the presence of those mountains, caused me to have kind of this meditative aha! moment. Rocky Mountain Bicycles!
Now that was pre-dating mountain bikes and yet the name became so available, so clearly connected with who we were. Later on, fast forward to 2018 and the company I sold Rocky Mountain to was called Pro Cycle. They in 2018 changed the name of their whole company and now everything is Rocky Mountain: one team, one bike with one mission again. Ah, for me it’s wonderful! So what are the three takeaways for you?
Well first of all, push in and find out somehow what the customer’s pain points are and again this won’t be obvious. If it is somebody else has already innovated, it’s going to be unique to you and your clients and how you relate to them. Number two: try and not look at innovation equals success but innovation could equal numerous failures first and accept that. Just be.
It’s part of the journey and you will generate a certain number of failures. Finally, innovation— let it happen through meditation: innovation through meditation. Slow your breath down. Take time to rest. Go for a bike ride. Take a plane ride. And enjoy the journey of innovation through your own centeredness.
I’d love to hear your comments. As always I appreciate what you have to say and thanks for listening.