This year has seen a number of high profile sporting events. As well as the annual Tour de France and Wimbledon, we’ve had the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games. Whilst watching these last two events I noticed the abundance of players and athletes wearing different coloured footwear i.e. one boot/trainer different from its partner. Following a quick Google search I discovered that  Puma were the innovators with the other, bigger brands jumping on the bandwagon.
This got me thinking about companies who are prepared to try something that’s a bit, off the wall. Of course, if you are the first to try something radical the result can be amazing or disastrous, to some extent, it is a gamble. So the question is; would you rather be a follower, always copying the tried and tested or edgy, creative which others can only admire from behind?
For most, this isn’t a black and white decision.
There are advantages to “following” including financial (letting someone else make expensive mistakes seems sensible), public relations (once we see acceptance of someone’s wacky idea we’re safe to proceed), feelings of “safety” for employees (if things go wrong jobs could be in jeopardy) etc. But this begs the question – if nobody leads how can anybody follow?
Innovation is essential in the world and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that organisations must innovate for altruistic reasons, not at all, as clearly, if things go well, the financial, PR etc payback can be immense but let’s consider a couple of other aspects.
It’s fair to say that many workers prefer things to stay the same allowing themselves and their organisation to continue doing what they’ve always done. Understandable for, as Henry Ford posited “If you always do what you’ve always done – you always get what you’ve always got”. Under these circumstances, most people feel secure, safe and risk free. However, as we all know, things are changing constantly and if you “…always do…” one day you’ll wake up and you won’t “…always get…” because the world has left you behind.
Businesses need to attract a mix of skills and we all know that attracting (and retaining) the high flying and the highly skilled is a constant headache for recruiters. Those at the top of their game will gravitate to those with whom they feel will have the opportunity to expand their knowledge, grow and be rewarded for their efforts. Therefore, the enterprises with a reputation for management which actively encourages innovation, experimentation and risk will be high on the list of those seeking to further their careers.
Risk taking does not always have to be radical, small chunks which continually move things forward can have a significant effect on bottom line, labour turnover and public perception.
Finally, to return to the beautiful game (that’s football for all you cricket lovers), the leading clubs in the game are fighting to get their hands on the likes of Luis Suarez or Mario Balotelli even though they are a pretty “risky”. But even they are nervous when it comes to something different as Balotelli reportedly commented when shown the Puma (pink/blue) boots “I have to be honest…I thought the Puma guy was mad”
But he still wore them…