The Innovation Paradigm

I recently went to a presentation titled 'Innovation', conducted by a former F1 Engineer.  I also read Keith Lyons/Darrell Cobner's blog post which, as always, got me thinking.

The F1 Engineer noted that, in over 10 years working in F1, never once was he asked to 'Innovate'. However, he, and everyone he worked with, were relentlessly challenged to make the car go faster. Darrell discusses the notion of 'low hanging fruit' with regard to the important role human beings play in the drive to succeed in sport.

I've always been uncomfortable with the innovation paradigm, and this description of F1 really made sense.

In sport, and I believe in all other activities, the key is not the innovation, the key is the problem. What is the fundamental thing (or things) that you need to achieve? Once this is clear, thought needs to be put into two things:

  1. Are we doing everything we can to achieve this?
  2. Is there anything we are doing that can be done better?
With many sporting organisations having 'Innovation Funds' the paradigm is often reversed. That is, the focus of the process is on the 2nd part, which should only be addressed after (or at worse, in parallel) with the 1st part. This means we often end up with Maslow's hammer, that is, we develop a solution then use it to solve a perceived problem.

Wikipedia defines innovation as finding better solutions to new, unarticulated or existing needs. Clearly the first part of the process is to define the needs.

It is easy to shrug and say, 'well, innovation, you know, its like the chicken and the egg'. No, its really not. Its simply problem solving, and when you problem solve, the first thing you need to be clear about is exactly what the problem is.


  1. I wonder if this clarity (and elegance) in problem solving comes from bisociative vision? (

  2. Thanks Keith - I hadn't seen that before. Its a very interesting concept.

    The difficulty I still have though is that this disociative vision is still about 'need(ing) to develop innovative solutions'. My question is, and this goes back to Darrell's thoughts, do we always need to develop innovative solutions, or is the solution actually very simple at times?

  3. There seems to be a lot of that in our sport science system where sport scientists seem to or feel they have to justufy their existence by coming up with something new or different. We concentrate a large amount of resources into finding the new one percenter when we still don't do the ninety percenters as well as we could.


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